UCLA Labor Center

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.”

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/.

 

2019 Immigrant Justice Fellowship Kick-Off

 

In February 2019, the Dream Resource Center (DRC) kicked off the second year of the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), our California-wide rapid-response fellowship for immigrant youth! During the kick-off, fellows gathered to build community, participate in trainings, and prepare for the rapid-response work they are now leading for the next seven months across the state of California. This year, the DRC partnered with the following fellows and organizations:

 

 

Fellow: Adanna Ilori

Organization: Sacramento Immigration Coalition

Region: Sacramento

 

 

 

 

Fellow: Brenda Gutierrez Ramirez

Organization: Resilience OC

Region: Orange County

 

 

 

 

Fellow: Kristina Olea

Organization: Faith in the Valley (Kern County)

Region: Central Valley

 

 

 

 

Fellow: Mario Perez

Organization: Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice

Region: Inland Empire

 

 

 

Fellow: Mayra Pelagio

Organization: Santa Clara Rapid Response Network

Region: Silicon Valley

 

 

 

Fellow: Maythe Alderete Gonzalez

Organization: Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition

Region: Los Angeles

 

 

 

Learn more about our 2019 Immigrant Justice Fellows.

Here’s a look at five highlights from the kick-off:

1) The DRC led a plenary titled, “From the Frontlines: Lessons Learned from Rapid Response.” The plenary engaged DRC partners and IJF alumni in a powerful discussion regarding rapid-response work in California, such as the current landscape, best practices and strategies, and reflections from grassroots organizers.

Plenary participants:

  • Vanessa Alderete, Deputy Director of Constituent Services for U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (Left)
  • Jennaya Dunlap, Deportation Defense Coordinator for the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (Middle)
  • Ana Ramirez, OC Rapid Response Coordinator for Resilience OC & IJF Alumna (Right)

 

2) The fellows participated in the 23rd Annual UCLA Health Care Symposium, “Immigration & Health: Status, Access, and Bridging the Disparity.” The symposium explored the intersection of immigration and the healthcare system and how to improve access to healthcare for immigrants. Watch the video below for what the fellows learned about immigration and health!

 

3) UCLA alumna and immigrant rights leader Yadira Hernandez led an interactive deportation defense training for the fellows. The training was grounded in her own successful campaign to get her father released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after he was detained for a traffic violation in Nevada.

Yadira midway through her deportation defense training!

Yadira speaking to the fellows about her father’s detainment.

 

4) The DRC engaged experts in the immigrant rights field in order to discuss California immigration policies as well as provide skill-based trainings on communications, storytelling, public speaking, self-care, and community wellness.

Fellows engaged during a communications training.

 

5) Throughout the kick-off, the fellows engaged in conversations with one another on how to take what they learned back to their communities. The fellows plan to share resources with one another and develop community presentations throughout the fellowship.

Mayra Pelagio and Adanna Ilori discussing what they learned.

 

Learn more about the Immigrant Justice Fellowship!

 

Meet The 2019 Immigrant Justice Fellows

We are excited to announce that the 2019 Immigrant Justice fellows have been selected. Learn about them below:

Adanna Ilori

SACRAMENTO FELLOW

Placed at Sacramento Immigration Coalition

Biography

Adanna Ilori was born in Lagos, Nigeria and has lived in Northern California since she was ten years old. She is currently a double major in Design and Managerial Economics at UC Davis. She is a passionate advocate for the rights of the LGBTQIA community and undocumented immigrant community. At UC Davis, she interned for the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center on campus to ensure that undocumented students had the resources they needed to succeed. She educated students on policies; contributed to the center’s web page; and outreached to middle schools, staff, and faculty regarding federal, state and local immigration policies. Since high school, Adanna has advocated for the rights of the LGBTQIA community such as by providing resources to and working as a caregiver for Black LGBT elders.

Why the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF)?

Adanna applied to the Immigrant Justice Fellowship because as an immigrant she knows firsthand the unique challenges immigrants face in getting internships, securing jobs and overall attaining a better quality of life. She wants to give back to the undocumented immigrant community and help represent their voices.

Personal hobbies and interests

Adanna’s personal interests and hobbies include fashion design and photography. She has advocated for the African American community by designing clothes inspired by African culture. Her garment designs have been featured in fashion shows and shown the fashion industry the intrinsic beauty of Africa and its people.

Brenda Gutierrez Ramirez

ORANGE COUNTY FELLOW

Placed at Resilience OC

Biography

Brenda Gutierrez Ramirez was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico and has lived in Anaheim, California for 15 years. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Anthropology and minored in Film and Digital Media. Brenda is passionate about grassroots organizing for social justice. She was a member of MEChA de UCSC for three years, where she learned and practiced student agency and student organizing. MEChA de UCSC taught her about social justice and enabled her to get out of her comfort zone.

Why the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF)?

Brenda applied to the Immigrant Justice Fellowship to improve her skills as a grassroots organizer and to help out her community. For Brenda, IJF represents an opportunity to engage with individuals that have a similar background as her. Being around folks with similar backgrounds, empowers and encourages her to continue with her social justice work.

Personal hobbies and interests

Brenda loves spending time with her family and dog. Watching movies and funny shows are her favorite pastime. She also enjoys visiting natural places with her friends.

Kristina Olea

CENTRAL VALLEY FELLOW

Placed at Faith in the Valley (Kern County)

Biography

Kristina Olea was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico and came to the United States at two years of age. The youngest of 11 children, she was the first one in her family to graduate from college. She graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration and an emphasis in Economics from the California State University, Fresno. She is currently an immigration and criminal case manager and loves every second of it. Her professional goal is to attend law school and eventually open up her own business.

Why the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF)?

Kristina applied to the Immigrant Justice Fellowship because she is passionate about labor rights. She specifically wants to make a difference in agricultural labor laws. As a resident of the Central Valley, California’s single most productive agricultural region, Kristina understands the lack of resources and protections agricultural laborers have.

Personal hobbies and interests

Kristina enjoys baking. She is a self-taught baker, but thanks to YouTube she has gained a lot of baking techniques.

Mario Perez

INLAND EMPIRE FELLOW

Placed at Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice

Biography

Mario Perez was born in the capital of Mexico known as Mexico City. He arrived to the United States when he was five years of age. As a person directly impacted by the current state of the U.S. immigration system, Mario is passionate about shining a different light on the issues that face the immigrant community. His current goal is to pursue a career in journalism to cover immigration issues. His ultimate goal is to become more involved in the immigrant community by providing the support they need to gain justice.

Why the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF)?

Mario applied to the Immigrant Justice Fellowship to become more involved in the immigrant rights movement and to further develop his leadership skills as an organizer. Through the program, he hopes to learn how to effectively fight for the rights of immigrants and become a voice for the immigrant community, so that they are no longer excluded from decisions that directly impact them.

Personal hobbies and interests

Mario enjoys the arts, fashion, music, and visiting museums.

Mayra Pelagio

SILICON VALLEY FELLOW

Placed at Santa Clara Rapid Response Network

Biography

Mayra Pelagio and her family moved to the United States in 2009 from León, Guanajuato, Mexico. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management (ESM) and minored in Wildlife, Fish, Conservation Biology. Throughout her undergraduate career, she worked on programs that served the undocumented immigrant and low-income student community. One of her biggest accomplishments was establishing the BikEmpower program, which is structured around sustainability, empowerment and community building. In the program, students are taught bicycle repairing skills which they use to repair a refurbished bicycle they are given by the school. After graduating from UC Davis, Mayra advocated for the passing of the federal DREAM Act in Washington D.C with members of congress. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in environmental studies at San Jose State University.

Why the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF)?

Mayra applied to the Immigrant Justice Fellowship because she wants to expand the resources that were available to her, as a high school student, to the broader immigrant community.

Personal hobbies and interests

Mayra loves hiking, camping, and bird watching.

Maythe Alderete Gonzalez

LOS ANGELES FELLOW

Placed at Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition

Biography

Maythe Alderete Gonzalez was born in Cuautla, Morelos, Mexico. She arrived to the United States at the age of two and has lived in Long Beach ever since. She is currently pursuing her B.A. in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and a minor in Human Development at California State University, Long Beach. Maythe is actively involved in creating a safe space for undocumented immigrants by sitting as an active board member for student organizations such as For Undocumented Empowered Leaders (FUEL) and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Student Association (WGSSSA).

Why the Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF)?

Maythe applied to the Immigrant Justice Fellowship to enhance her professional, networking, cultural competency, and ethical decision making skills. Through the Immigrant Justice Fellowship, she hopes to discover her personal, academic, and career goals.

Personal hobbies and interests

Sewing and photography have become Maythe’s two biggest hobbies to express her creativity through. She began a project named “Undocu Journey” in which she photographs undocumented immigrants and asks: who are you outside of this undocumented identity? The purpose of the project is to provide viewers a different perspective of each photographed individual, as a means to end the dehumanization of undocumented immigrants.

Learn more about the Immigrant Justice Fellowship

 

Meet The Immigrant Justice Fellows

Ana Ramirez Zarate

Orange County

Resilience OC

Ana Ramirez Zarate graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor degree in Sociology and Chicana/o Studies. During her undergraduate career she was part of PATHS for US, a student project funded by the Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant program (BEST) that focuses on the retention of undocumented students at UCLA. Ana began her undergrad at Fullerton Community College where she met a supportive undocumented student community that inspired her to continue her education journey and become a femtor to other undocumented students. She currently works as program coordinator for the Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant Program (BEST) at UCLA which is a student-led initiative that fosters social justice leadership among campus activist.

 

 Saira Murillo

Inland Empire

Inland Coalition For Immigrant Justice (ICIJ)

Saira Murillo migrated to the U.S. at the age of 8 and has lived in the Inland Empire (IE) ever since. Growing up in the IE, Saira witnessed a lack of support for undocumented youth and their families; such as limited access to preventive care, resources for undocumented students, and local law enforcement collaboration with I.C.E. Now at the age of 24, Saira has been actively involved for almost five years in creating a space for undocumented youth where they can have the tools to self-advocate to live unafraid and unapologetic, especially in this crucial time where immigrant youth need to continue leading and shaping their own narratives. Saira hopes to continue contributing for a sustainable movement in the Inland Empire and she knows that by participating in the Immigrant Justice Fellowship it will be possible.

 

Sandra Morales

Sacramento

Sacramento Immigration Coalition

Sandra Morales was born in Juayua, El Salvador and immigrated to the United States at 2-years of age. Sandra is the only sibling of six that’s undocumented, and this causes insecurity among her family. She’s been a TPS beneficiary since the age of 10, and she now finds herself in a limbo with her immigration status. Sandra currently attends Sacramento City College as a Sociology major, and she hopes to have a career that focuses on education and law. Her biggest motivation and what keeps me wanting to fight for immigrant rights is the older generation of immigrants that paved the way for youth and are too afraid to speak out for their rights because they fear retaliation.

 

Rubi Salazar

San Mateo County

Youth Leadership Institute

Rubi Salazar is a full time student at College of San Mateo where she plans to transfer to UC Santa Cruz to study Marine Biology. She currently sits on the executive board of the San Mateo Youth Commission for the second year, and is the chair of the immigration justice committee for the San Mateo Youth Commission where she guides the committee on immigrated related issues, especially affecting youth. Rubi has previously worked closely with Half Moon Bay City Council to help Half Moon Bay become a sanctuary city for immigrants. She helped reduce alcoholic beverage sings in Half Moon Bay corner stores along side the Coast side Youth Council were she attended the group for three years. Rubi has worked at Hassett Ace Hardware in the Garden department where she helped order plants, product, meet with vendors, and helped customers.

 

Yael Pineda

Los Angeles

Working for Justice, Dignity, and Respect (KIWA)

Yael Pineda was born in the state of Morelos, Mexico. In 1999, at the age of four, she crossed the United States border alongside her parents, due to the lack economic opportunities her family faced while in Mexico. Yael’s parents sacrificed their lives, as many do day by day, crossing the dangerous and vast desert that masks the border between Mexico and the United States. She grew up in La Puente, California, where she believed that after high school, college was not an option due to her immigration status. Since 2003, Yael participated in different protests and rallies, her parents fostered a passion for immigrant and worker justice. In September of 2017, Yael received her degree in Psychology and Labor and Workplace Studies from UCLA.

 

Yenedit Valencia

Central Valley

UFW Foundation

Yenedit Valencia was born in Ayoquezco de Aldama, Oaxaca. She arrived to the United States at the age of 8. She is pursuing her B.A. degree at California State University, Fresno. She will be graduating in May with her B.A. in Sociology and with the Humanics certificate which is a certificate program in administration and leadership for community benefit organizations. Yenedit currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Central California Legal Services and co-directs Xiadani del Valle a traditional Oaxaqueño dance group.