UCLA Labor Center

Denise Panaligan, 2021-2022 DRC Alumni Council Member

Denise Panaligan, alum of the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s (DRC) 2013 Dream Summer fellowship, will serve as a 2021-2022 DRC Alumni Council member. Along with eight other council members, Denise will guide the DRC’s Alumni Network and advise the DRC staff team on programmatic priorities. The DRC Alumni Council will also lead professional and leadership development for alumni, while supporting and mentoring current DRC fellows.


Denise was born in the Philippines and raised in Koreatown (Los Angeles, CA). She is currently a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and is passionate about immigrant rights, working with young people, and education. Her passion is a result of her lived experience as an undocumented immigrant. During high school, Denise did not receive the support she needed because her teachers did not know how to assist a student with an undocumented immigration status.

This traumatic event sparked Denise’s decision to work towards a world where schools can be a place of belonging and access to quality education is the norm, not the exception. Denise is currently working towards a doctorate degree in education leadership. Her dissertation focuses on eliminating racial disparities in school discipline through restorative justice, increasing resource equity for marginalized students, and sustaining civil rights protections.

Over the course of her academic and professional career, Denise has engaged in external affairs strategy, executed media relations, conducted policy analysis, and developed coalitions with diverse stakeholders. In October 2020, Denise was featured in a roundtable discussion for Fresh Off the Vote’s podcast episode, “Untangling Undocumented,” that examines how race and law work together to erase Asian Americans from the undocumented narrative. The roundtable also shared resources for audience members to complicate and untangle their notions of “legal immigration.”

Q&A with Denise  

Why did you apply to the DRC Alumni Council?

“During Dream Summer 2013, Yves Gomes, a fellow alum of the program, shared a quote with me from Yuri Kochiyama, ‘Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students.’ It was this quote and my interest in ensuring that decisions are grounded in the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that motivated me to invest deeply in the DRC Alumni Council.”

What are you looking forward to the most as a council member?

 “I look forward to developing my expertise on immigration policy and being a DRC thought partner. The DRC’s Dream Summer fellowship was a catalyst in my life that enabled me to operationalize vision and develop strong organizational skills. I am excited to play a major role in supporting the DRC’s efforts in community education, partnerships, and fundraising.”

Meet Inesa Sargsyan, 2020 Dream Summer Graduate

Placed with SEIU 721 for Dream Summer 2020.


Inesa Sargsyan was born and raised in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. She moved to the United States at the age of fifteen and has lived in Los Angeles ever since.

From an early age, Inesa was very passionate about learning foreign languages, exploring different cultures, geographies, and closely following international politics. To further her interests, Inesa had intended to pursue an International Relations major in Armenia and become a professional interpreter/translator working in the field of foreign diplomacy. She participated in several United Nations, and other NGO, organized conferences and seminars in Armenia to become more knowledgeable of the field and have a closer look into the world of international relations and diplomacy.

After moving to the United States, she became even more passionate and curious about exploring the field of international relations. She discovered the wide scope of factors, professions, stories, and opportunities that the field has to offer. Determined to pursue a career in the field of international relations, Inesa completed her high school education in 2019 with High Honors and a State and District Biliteracy Seal. She also participated in the Math and Science Magnet program offered by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Inesa is now a sophomore at Los Angeles Valley College and is planning to transfer to a university next fall to study International Relations.

We asked Inesa: What was your experience with the Dream Summer fellowship like? 

“Working with SEIU 721, through the Dream Summer fellowship, has been a life-changing experience for me. This fellowship has been my first hands-on experience in public affairs. It has made me even more determined to pursue a career in the international relations field since the field largely deals with public affairs between individuals, organizations, politicians, and governments. During some of the events that we, the fellows, helped organize, such as the Mobile Workers Gig Conference and the Essential Worker Hearing, I was able to closely observe the ways that elected public officials address the issues and concerns brought up by their constituents.

Throughout the fellowship, I also had the honor of helping organize the nationwide Strike for Black Lives that took place amid the current racial and health crisis. The strike was definitely one of the highlights of my fellowship because it was a success with over 700 cars forming a caravan demanding justice for black communities. People were protesting systemic racism in the US and demanding living wages, benefits, and union rights for all workers.

Being able to observe a social justice action of that scale become a reality and to contribute to it has been monumental for me. The strike was the first major action, of such a huge scale and influence, that I had the opportunity to help organize.”

We asked Inesa: How has the Dream Summer fellowship helped you grow?

 “As part of the fellowship, one of our obligations has been to contact workers and inform them about upcoming actions and events organized by SEIU 721. Being able to have one-on-one conversations with workers, hearing their stories, and experiences has helped me become more understanding and empathetic of others.

Through the fellowship, I learned how to navigate difficult and challenging conversations in a professional manner. I also obtained valuable lifelong skills such as time management, leadership and organizing skills. These skills will help me achieve my career goals and future endeavors, as I continue with my journey in the world of Global Affairs.

I am incredibly grateful to have been given this life-changing opportunity to work with SEIU 721 and grow as a student, activist, immigrant, and future foreign diplomat.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

Meet Freddy Lopez, 2020 Dream Summer Graduate

Placed with APALA, AFL-CIO for Dream Summer 2020.


Freddy Lopez was born in Guatemala and has lived in Virginia since the age of 12. He is a junior at George Mason University’s Honors College majoring in Sociology.

Freddy is currently the Internal VP of UndocuMason, a student-led organization at GMU that aims to create a more inclusive environment for undocumented immigrants through education and advocacy. As the Internal VP, Freddy advocates for the implementation of in-state tuition and university-led fundraising for undocumented students. Freddy is also an UndocuAlly Trainer at GMU. He trains hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and fellow organizers on how to be a better ally for the undocumented community.

Freddy also uses his organizing skills to advocate at the state level. He advocated for the newly implemented Virgnia legislation that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students and provides “driving privilege cards” to undocumented immigrants. After graduating from GMU, Freddy plans to attend law school and use his J.D. to continue fighting for the rights of immigrants. He hopes to continue working closely with his community and to one day become a legal resource for a youth-led organization.

We asked Freddy: What was your experience with the Dream Summer fellowship like? 

“I am very grateful to have spent the fellowship with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO. Working with APALA has been an eye-opening experience that helped me realize the importance of intersectionality and being community-oriented when advocating, especially within the labor movement. During my time with APALA, I had the opportunity to work on three major projects that allowed me to get a front-row seat into the current landscape of the labor movement and the issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, especially during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Through APALA, I worked with the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans’ (NCAPA) Housing and Economic Justice Committee. I co-led the development of a virtual teach-in about economic justice and the AAPI identity. During the teach-in, we discussed how the needs of working class AAPI communities are often ignored due to the model minority myth and how to create a movement that builds political power for those most marginalized. While working with NCAPA, I learned about the different ways organizations collectively organize and advocate for housing and economic issues impacting AAPIs at the national level.

I also had the opportunity to help create APALA’s 2020 Emerging Leaders Training (ELT) program. The program helps APALA members build their individual leadership; strategize chapter recruitment and engagement; and create actionable goals for racial and economic justice. I learned so much from participating in the creation of this program. My colleagues and APALA’s National Board Members provided me with insight into what organizing and leadership within the movement truly means, especially when aiming to train fellow organizers like APALA members at the national level.

I also helped lead APALA’s “National Healthcare Workforce Infection Prevention Control (IPC) Training Initiative,” a CDC sponsored initiative to develop a user informed, culturally competent, COVID-19 IPC curriculum to help train AAPI healthcare workers. I worked with union leaders, APALA members, and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum to launch this initiative that is expected to aid AAPI workers on the frontline across the nation.

These 3 projects have equipped me with priceless skills and knowledge that have helped me realize the many different ways in which I, a brown first-generation immigrant, can go from thinking I had no voice, to using what I know to uplift the voices of the most marginalized and organize for collective liberation.”

We asked Freddy: How has the Dream Summer fellowship helped you grow?

“My time at APALA has helped me become confident in my ability to organize, strategize, and lead. At the same time, APALA has taught me the importance of looking at issues through an intersectional lens and to always uplift the voices of the communities impacted by social inequality in the U.S. I learned from so many AAPI leaders who taught me what collective liberation truly means and helped strengthen my skills. I am forever grateful to APALA for welcoming me with open arms.

As I plan for my next steps post-graduation, I hope to use everything I have learned from APALA and the fellowship to continue my role in the movement.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

Meet Christine Nabung, 2020 Dream Summer Graduate

Placed at SEIU 721 for Dream Summer 2020.


Christine Nabung was born in the Philippines. When she was five years of age, her family immigrated to Los Angeles, California. While growing up in the United States, Christine knew that she was an undocumented immigrant, but it wasn’t until high school that she felt the weight of her immigration status. As Christine navigated the college application process, she experienced various barriers and obstacles due to her immigration status. It was also during this critical time, in her youth, that her father was deported. Christine’s family was torn apart and life would never be the same for them.

Despite these unjust and traumatic events, Christine is determined to pursue higher education. In December of 2017, she was chosen as a Posse scholar to attend Middlebury College in rural Vermont. Christine is currently working towards a B.A. in Environmental Justice and a minor in Education Studies. She is also heavily involved on campus by providing support to first-generation students and hosting monthly open mics.

Christine’s experiences sparked her passion for helping others and her desire to prioritize social equity in the work she engages with. She believes that there are multiple ways to solve social justice issues and enjoys creative problem solving. Her favorite creative problem-solving method is storytelling because she believes personal anecdotes are powerful, inspire change, and empower underrepresented communities.

We asked Christine: What was your experience with the Dream Summer fellowship like? 

“Through the Dream Summer fellowship, I had the opportunity to work with SEIU 721. My first project at SEIU 721 was to help drivers, in the gig economy, fight for their rights. In collaboration with the Mobile Workers Alliance (MWA), SEIU 721 led a campaign that challenged the gig economy by demanding for the recognition of workers’ rights and the improvement of working conditions for drivers.

I, along with a team of 9 people, made daily calls to drivers who work for companies like Lyft, Uber, and Instacart. We listened to their experiences, provided them with information, and mobilized them for major actions and events. From June 25th to the 26th, I attended MWA’s conference, a global meeting where drivers from all over the world discussed the rights of gig workers and shared resources. At the conference, I learned about the different processes workers go through to create a union and how to continue making progress through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 20th, SEIU 721 joined a national one-day strike led by janitors, nurses, homecare workers, and thousands of others fighting for racial and worker justice. The event was a huge success with over 700 cars filling the streets of Los Angeles in a caravan for justice. Shortly after on July 23rd, I attended a virtual hearing joined by Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and hundreds of essential workers. At the hearing, people shared their stories and talked about what it’s like to be an essential worker during the current health crisis. I was moved by the stories and frustrated to hear that people endure harsh working conditions to survive. Folks in the discussion emphasized that workers who are essential are not expendable.”

We asked Christine: How has the Dream Summer fellowship helped you grow?

“Working with SEIU 721 has taught me so many valuable lessons. First, it has reinforced for me the intersectionality of social justice issues and how a crisis, like the pandemic, only amplifies the already existing injustices within our communities. I also learned that organizing is necessary to challenge power and that power can be fairly redistributed by encouraging collaboration and partnership. The fellowship also made me reflect on our current systems and how maybe it is not about fixing these systems, but rather recreating them to achieve a truly equitable and just society.

This experience also taught me the importance of communication. A single conversation can catalyze change whether it be through learning about another’s experience, brainstorming next steps, discussing campaign plans, or simply reminding someone about an event. Building genuine and lasting connections is the foundation of a successful movement. Overall, I am extremely grateful that through this fellowship I had the opportunity to work with SEIU 721. At SEIU 721, I found a community that helped me find confidence in myself and strengthened my passion towards supporting my community.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

Mario Perez, 2020 IJF Fellow

Mario Perez

Inland Empire Fellow

Host Organization: Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice

Meet Mario Perez! Mario is the Inland Empire fellow for the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s California-wide rapid-response fellowship. The fellowship empowers and defends immigrant communities from mass detention and deportation by creating a partnership between immigrant youth leaders, on-the-ground organizations, and the UCLA Dream Resource Center. Learn more about IJF here.

Mario is an alum of the 2019 IJF cohort and was selected for this year’s cohort because of his exceptional dedication to the immigrant rights movement. Mario will be hosted by the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (IC4IJ). IC4IJ is composed of 35 organizations that collectively advocate and work to improve the lives of immigrant communities in the Inland Empire, while working toward a just solution to the current US immigration system. Learn more about IC4IJ on their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Q&A with Mario

What do you want us and our community to know about you?

“I want them to know that I am dedicated to protecting and defending the rights of our immigrant communities because they are amazing, resilient, and thriving communities. The best part of my work, as an immigrant rights activist, is providing humanitarian support to the undocumented immigrant community. I take great responsibility and pride when I support the community in any way possible.”

What about the fellowship are you excited about? 

“I am excited to return to IJF because my experience with the 2019 cohort was amazing. I grew so much from the education and wisdom provided to me by everyone involved in the project. I look forward to continuing my development and growth in the social justice movement through IJF.”

What drives you?

“My family and my community drive me. As an immigrant myself, I fight for the immigrant community but also for myself because if they thrive, I thrive. If they succeed, I succeed. I have the responsibility to do better for my community.”

What are your hobbies or what makes you YOU?

“I am a complex human. I love the arts, especially music and fashion. I enjoy going to music and fashion themed museums. I could live off gummy bears and peach rings. My favorite show, at the moment, is Big Little Lies and I love watching The Trixie & Katya Show. Something unique about me is that I am obsessed with Russian culture.”

Deyanira Cuellar, 2020 IJF Fellow

Deyanira Cuellar

Fresno Fellow

Host Organization: Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative

Meet Deyanira Cuellar! Deyanira is the Fresno fellow for the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s California-wide rapid-response fellowship. The fellowship empowers and defends immigrant communities from mass detention and deportation by creating a partnership between immigrant youth leaders, on-the-ground organizations, and the UCLA Dream Resource Center. Learn more about IJF here.

Deyanira will be hosted by the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC). CVIIC empowers immigrant families, strengthens the capacity of immigrant-serving organizations, and promotes coordination and collaboration that strengthens efforts to create strong, vibrant, and inclusive communities for immigrants. CVIIC is based in Fresno County but serves families from Kern County in the south to San Joaquin County in the north. Learn more about CVIIC on their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Q&A with Deyanira

We asked Deyanira a few questions to get to know her and understand why she is joining the 2020 Immigrant Justice fellowship.

What do you want us and our community to know about you?

“I was originally born in Michoacán, Mexico; however, I have spent most of my life in the Central Valley. Growing up I was always hyperware of my undocumented status, while I didn’t know exactly what it meant at the time, I understood that I could not be open about where I was born. Revealing my status could put myself and my family in danger.

My fears were solidified when my father was deported after a traffic stop, when I was in elementary school. The event led to my passion for helping immigrant communities, regardless of immigration status, understand their rights and get the adequate representation they deserve.

I’ve channeled this passion into my educational and professional experiences. I’ll be a first-generation college graduate this May with a B.A. in Political Science from UC Merced. At UC Merced, I had the opportunity to become an immigration intern at the International Rescue Committee in Turlock, CA. After a few months, I was hired as a caseworker and then promoted to a specialist in the management of a federal grant serving refugees and asylees. My work with the International Rescue Committee solidified my passion for helping our immigrant communities.”

What about the fellowship are you excited about? 

“I’m excited about focusing my work and advocacy in the Central Valley because, having grown up in the region, I know that the Central Valley community is often neglected. We lack an abundance of resources especially for immigrant communities, that is why I want to focus my work and advocacy in the Central Valley for the rest of my life.

I’m also excited about getting to know my communities even more and helping them get adequate access to information, resources, and services they need. For example, many Central Valley communities and families lack access to mental health services. I’m excited about expanding their access to these kinds of services.”

What drives you?

“My biggest inspiration is my mom, who has been a single parent for most of my life. Whenever I need inspiration, I look to her and think of all the sacrifices she made for my education to be possible. My mom has instilled in me many important values like sharing everything I have, even if it is not that much. My younger siblings are also an inspiration for me. I’ve been able to guide them and hope to continue to be a good role model for them.”

What are your hobbies or what makes you YOU?

“In my free time, I love being able to spend time with my family. My mom has 14 siblings who we try and get together with weekly. It provides me so much comfort to just laugh and talk over a carne asada with them. I also enjoy going out with friends and just always having a good time. I am also always down to binge watch any series on Netflix like HTGAWM or Jane the Virgin.”

Eva-Vera Kouassi Clollet, 2020 IJF Fellow

Eva-Vera Kouassi Clollet

Inland Empire Fellow

Host Organization: Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Meet Eva-Vera Kouassi Clollet! Eva is the Inland Empire fellow for the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s California-wide rapid-response fellowship. The fellowship empowers and defends immigrant communities from mass detention and deportation by creating a partnership between immigrant youth leaders, on-the-ground organizations, and the UCLA Dream Resource Center. Learn more about IJF here.

Eva will be hosted by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). BAJI is a human rights and racial justice organization that educates, advocates, and organizes on behalf of over 10 million Black immigrants and refugees in the US while building power with African Americans to fight for racial, economic, and social justice. Learn more about BAJI on their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Q&A with Eva

We asked Eva a few questions to get to know her and understand why she is joining the 2020 Immigrant Justice fellowship. 

What do you want us and our community to know about you?

“My name is Eva-Vera Kouassi and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am the eldest of three children and I grew up in the Ivory Coast, a beautiful country located in West Africa. My cultural background allows me to speak four languages: English, French, and two African languages (Baoulé and Bamileke). I will be graduating soon with a B.A. in Political Science from UC Riverside. I am thankful for the opportunity to join the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship.”

What about the fellowship are you excited about? 

“I am excited to meet the other fellows and share my experience with everybody. I am eager to learn from this fellowship and help my community to the best of my ability.”

What drives you?

“The values and principles I walk by are kindness, integrity, justice, honesty, determination, and courage. These values and principles are what drive me to follow up on my commitments and think of others first. My motto in life is ‘you are what you do,’ consequently I always strive to do what is right and be an example to others. I also value love, happiness, compassion, and things that make me feel valued and bring inner happiness.” 

What are your hobbies or what makes you YOU? 

“I really enjoy learning new things. I constantly seek out new learning opportunities. I am also a very creative person and passionate about art in all of its shapes. Museums are my favorite places to visit and I love painting. It is a great way to express yourself. I also like to spend some of my free time doing creative “DIY” projects.”

Sara Alagha, 2020 IJF Fellow

Sara Alagha

San Diego Fellow

Host Organization: Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans

Meet Sara Alagha! Sara is the San Diego fellow for the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s California-wide rapid-response fellowship. The fellowship empowers and defends immigrant communities from mass detention and deportation by creating a partnership between immigrant youth leaders, on-the-ground organizations, and the UCLA Dream Resource Center. Learn more about IJF here.

Sara will be hosted by the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) to strengthen her skills as an immigrant rights advocate. PANA is a research, public policy, and community organizing hub dedicated to advancing the full economic, social, and civic inclusion of refugees. Learn more about PANA on their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Q&A with Sara

We asked Sara a few questions to get to know her and understand why she is joining the 2020 Immigrant Justice fellowship. 

What do you want us and our community to know about you?

“I recently graduated from San Diego State University, in 2019, with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. My family is originally from Syria and we lived there for several years when I was a child. I am fluent in both Arabic and English and pride myself on being bilingual.”

What about the fellowship are you excited about? 

“I’m most excited about developing my skills and taking on new challenges that can help me grow as an individual. I’m also looking forward to working more directly with the immigrant community in San Diego because I feel that I can connect with them, considering that I come from an immigrant family myself.”

What drives you?

“My strong sense of justice and equality is what drives me. I believe in helping those who are neglected or oppressed by the system and elevating their voices to collectively fight for their rights. I believe in uniting our voices to reach a common goal, and that’s equality.”

What are your hobbies or what makes you YOU? 

“Some of my hobbies include watching reruns of The Office and Friends, spending quality time with my friends and family, taking frequent walks among nature, and going to the beach. I also love to travel any chance I get. Earlier this year, I visited Morocco and Portugal.

Immigrant Rights Advocate & IJF Alum: Mario Perez

Mario Perez

Mario Perez is an alum of the 2019 Immigrant Justice Fellowship. The Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF) is a project of the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC). IJF is a California rapid response fellowship that aims to: (1) center the voices and experiences of undocumented immigrant youth in the immigrant rights movement, (2) protect and defend undocumented communities from mass detention and deportation, and (3) create a welcoming, healthy, and just society for immigrants. During the fellowship, Mario was placed at the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) where he protected and advocated for the rights of immigrants.

Mario with ICIJ Staff

Mario strengthened ICIJ’s Emergency Response Network and deportation defense programs with his innovative ideas and amazing leadership skills. He led ICIJ’s yearly rapid response retreat, helped build and restructure the Emergency Response Network, and increased the impact of rapid response work in the Inland Empire. His leadership was instrumental in providing shelter and transitional support to over 570 migrant families abandoned by Border Patrol in San Bernardino on May 2019.

Mario and the Emergency Response Network volunteers at an ERN retreat.

The UCLA Labor Center and Dream Resource Center are very proud of Mario’s dedication to immigrant rights and would like to present to you his reflection piece, entitled Responding with Hope, about a significant moment he experienced during the fellowship.


Responding with Hope

By Mario Perez

One of the most important reasons I became involved in the immigrant rights movement is the desire to support families that are directly impacted by the unjust immigration system that oppresses our migrant community. As a directly impacted individual that was formerly detained, my mission is to be of service to families that have been affected by the detention or deportation of a loved one.

Through the Inland Empire’s Rapid Response Network, we are able to identify and respond to community members that find themselves facing ICE on a regular basis. On one particular instance, we received a call from a community member who informed us that their family member, named Jose, had been detained by ICE outside of his workplace. ICE had been surveying Jose’s workplace for some time because the company was allegedly hiring udocumented folks. It just so happens that my colleague, Jennaya, and I had just distributed Rapid Response Network cards in the community earlier that day and this family got a hold of one of our cards and gave us a call to support Jose.

Jennaya and I responded to the call as quickly as possible—we know that time is of the essence with immigration matters. We made an appointment to meet with Jose’s wife at their home to conduct an intake, identify the situation they were facing, and assess how to support their case. However, we did not know that Jose’s children had not been notified of his arrest. Ultimately, it was Jennaya and I who would break the news to them. We sat down with Jose’s wife and took down all of the information necessary for the intake, all the while Jose’s children were unaware of the situation. Finally, the eldest came to the room to ask what was happening. Jose’s wife looked to us for support in informing the kids. Jennaya broke the news to the children.

I decided this was a good time to share my own experience as a formerly detained individual and offer them some insight and hope. I shared with them my experience being detained at the Adelanto Detention Center and what their father might face. The children burst into tears and so did their mother. It was one of the toughest moments that I have faced during my fellowship. I was reminded of what my family faced and how they may have reacted when I was arrested. It was truly heartbreaking to witness all of this, but—at the same time—I knew that I would be able to offer them some relief by explaining the process to them and offering them hope and guidance.

While Jennaya and I were there, the family received an odd call from Jose stating that he was coming home soon. We did not know what that meant. It is extremely rare for ICE to release folks right after they are processed. We waited a little while longer with the family to ensure that they were calm and also to see if there were any updates on Jose’s possible release. The time came when Jennaya and I had to leave to complete another intake, but we insisted the family call us as soon as they received any news. Sure enough, a few hours later, we received a call from Jose’s wife stating that he had been released by ICE and was home now. Jennaya and I were ecstatic and grateful, yet we could not believe that he had been released! We made an appointment to follow up with him the following day.

As it turns out, ICE officers questioned Jose regarding the company he was working for and he answered truthfully, so they released him. They released him with an ankle monitor and a pending court date, but the important part was that he was able to obtain his freedom. When we visited Jose the following day, he was still pretty shaken up. He broke down and cried as he explained the traumatic arrest and questioning by ICE. We tried to comfort him as much as possible. We went over the next steps in his immigration case and offered to refer him to legal services that would support his case. He was extremely thankful to have our support and congratulated us many times for the work we do. We have kept in touch with Jose and his family since his arrest and I am glad to say he is doing well.

The most important aspect of my work through the fellowship has been educating the Inland Empire community through our Know Your Rights workshops. Immigrant communities are continually criminalized and oppressed, so it is essential that folks know their rights and exercise them. I will admit that sometimes we come across very heavy cases to handle such as Jose’s, but there is also a lot to be grateful for, such as his release. Success stories are hard to come by but when they do, they offer me hope and motivation to continue fighting for immigrant rights.

If you would like to learn more about the rights of immigrants and resources available to them, please visit the following webpage: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/immigrants-rights/.


A Compassionate & Visionary Leader: Diego Sepúlveda

                      Diego Sepúlveda

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Diego Sepúlveda who has been an exceptional, compassionate, and visionary leader for the Dream Resource Center (DRC) and UCLA Labor Center. We also would like to congratulate Diego on his new position within Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign! Unfortunately, Diego will be leaving his current position as the Director of the Dream Resource Center to join Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Although today is Diego’s last day and we are sad to see him go, we know that he will always be a part of the Dream Resource Center and UCLA Labor Center family. 

We are very grateful to have had the privilege to work alongside Diego⏤who is a relentless advocate for justice⏤for almost five years. Diego has contributed so much to the success of the DRC since he was initially hired, in 2015, to build and strengthen the DRC’s Alumni Network. He developed a comprehensive database of alumni, launched the alumni network council, and in 2016 coordinated a national alumni convening in Los Angeles. In 2017, Diego led Dream Summer which is the DRC’s national fellowship program that has provided close to 700 fellowship opportunities to immigrant youth and allies and has partnered with over 250 social justice organizations across the country. 

Diego with DRC staff members.

That same year, Diego became the Director of the Dream Resource Center after an open application and selection process. As the Director, Diego helped secure over $1.5 million to support the DRC’s execution of existing projects and launch of new programs, such as the Immigrant Justice Fellowship. Thanks to Diego and all DRC team members, the DRC is strategically placed to continue its leadership development, policy, education, and research work as it prepares to celebrate a decade of immigrant youth leadership in 2020. The DRC will continue to be a pioneer for bold, innovative, and visionary immigrant youth leadership development. 

We would like to thank Diego, one last time, for his major contributions to the success of the DRC and congratulate him on his new journey! Finally, we would like to leave you all with the following words from Diego: 

“The UCLA Labor Center and Dream Resource Center have been my home for almost five years. They have provided me with mentorship, leadership development, and a national network of leaders who work every day to create a better future for us all. It has been an honor to work at the intersection of immigrant rights and labor while simultaneously uplifting LGBTQ-identified individuals, women, and people of color. I am a wiser, stronger, and more strategic leader because of the passionate people I have gotten to work with and the work I have engaged with. 

I thank the UCLA Labor Center team and our partners for believing and fighting for a better future. I am especially thankful to the DRC teamGeorge, Kandice, Leticia, Mayra, and Silvia for always going above and beyond for our communities. I know that our world is a better one because of you. I love you all. Keep rocking and I know the DRC will continue its powerful work under your leadership.”

“I’ll be Dreaming Big, Fighting Hard, and Living Proud!” ⏤  Diego Sepúlveda

The application process for the position as the Director of the Dream Resource Center is not open yet, but we will make an announcement when the position is posted.