The Office of Multicultural Affairs together with Future Underrepresented Educated Leaders hosted the “Latinx Undocumented Experience” on Monday. Students enjoyed a complimentary dinner and an informative discussion on issues that undocumented students, faculty and the community as a whole face in America today.
This event was planned as a part of Latinx Heritage Month, prior to President Donald Trump’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program two weeks ago. In the wake of that news, organizers of the event encouraged students and faculty to come together to unite as an informed and inclusive community.
Just over 50 attendees, a mix of students, faculty and volunteers staggered in a few at a time to fill the seats of the University Student Union banquet hall. Each were welcomed with food, drinks and festive music; one song with a hip-hop beat that’s chorus exclaimed proudly “immigrants get the job done!” An array of pocket sized flyers covered the tables, sharing topics ranging from DACA information sessions to support groups for those affected by its termination, and one that read “DACA Rescinded, What We All Can Do Now.”
“We want to highlight the Latinx experience. We want to educate the campus and encourage everyone to stay away from forming stereotypes. Instead, we would like to focus on building an informed campus community and creating a safe place for students.” said Christian Lozano, assistant director of multicultural affairs. Lozano was a key contributor to the event and his dedication was visible throughout.
As a measure to protect the confidentiality of both attendees and speakers alike, no pictures or recordings were permitted during “The Latinx Undocumented Experience.” Individuals that shared with the group were encouraged to speak openly and candidly.
“I acknowledge I am privileged because I am a citizen,” said Jonathan Solorzano, a community organizer and representative of the Long Beach Immigration Coalition. He went on to explain to the group how he was challenged with immigration issues indirectly at a young age. His father was undocumented, and was detained for five years in the U.S. when Jonathan was 13. Later, his father was deported to Mexico, where he remains now. Jonathan’s ultimate goal is to become an immigration lawyer, in hopes to aid families facing issues his family continues to fight.
“We should all be more intentional and mindful with our language and interactions toward one another,” Dean of students Piya Bose said to the audience, hoping to inspire a sense of comradery within the banquet hall. She reiterated President Jane Close Conoley’s previous email statement following the announcement to end the DACA program, that reassured students they are welcome and wanted at The Beach.
During part of the presentation, videos were shared that addressed topics such as coming out as undocumented and what the DACA program was in a nutshell. After each video, Lozano shared some of his experiences in being openly undocumented and encouraged the panel to do the same. One student shared her reality in having to miss both of her grandparent’s funerals. She hadn’t received DACA at the time and had she left the U.S., she wouldn’t be welcomed to return. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now that DACA is being repealed. I wake up everyday, not knowing what will happen,” she said.
Another student expressed how he discovered he wanted to become an educator because of the opportunities he was granted through the DACA program. “Because of DACA, I get to live my passion — a passion not just benefitting me, but [a passion] that benefits our community.”
The evening came to a close with a discussion on how others can get involved and serve as allies to those facing immigration related issues. One student encouraged everyone to speak up and familiarize the narrative. Another student encouraged the group to get involved fighting for proper legislation for DACA recipients. “Everyone’s impact helps the movement. Every student should recognize they are a member of this community too,” Solorzano said in closing.
For more information regarding changes happening with DACA, visit the USU Beach Auditorium Wednesday Sept. 20, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. for a DACA Information Session presented by The Dream Success Center Advisory Board.