Publish date: March 8, 2018
Earlier this week, on March 5th, the date of the Trump administration’s “DACA deadline,” students at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in collaboration with the UCLA Labor Studies Program hosted over 400 students and community members at Immigration Forum: Students Speak Out! During the lively forum, students discussed the significance of the March 5th deadline and recent legislative actions and court decisions that have left 800,000 immigrant youth in limbo.
Given the Supreme Court denial of the March 5th DACA appeal, UCLA Professor and Labor Center Director, Kent Wong introduced the spirit of the forum in the statement: “We are gathered today to tell Donald Trump that he failed – and will never crush the dreams of immigrant youth in this country.” Students and guest speakers presented messages of unity and agreed that legislative policies should not pit immigrant youth against fellow UCLA students, staff, and their families.
Throughout the event, students proposed policy recommendations to elected officials and the UCLA community. Students called for support for all immigrants, the parents of undocumented youth, and youth not protected by DACA. David Orellana, a member of the student-led organization Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success (IDEAS) at UCLA stated; “When we demand equality we exclude other communities, equity is the right thing to do,” in reference to the exclusivity of the DACA program and the DREAMer narrative. DACA, TPS, community involvement, student activism, and unwavering advocacy were major topics explored throughout the forum.
In addition to student speakers, the event featured a line-up of prominent statewide and local leaders including, among others, Gilbert Cedillo (Los Angeles City Council Member, District 1), Monica Garcia (Representative of Board District 2 in the Los Angeles Unified School District), and Maria Elena Durazo (Democratic National Committee Vice-Chair incumbent currently running for California State Senator in the 24th District). Hilda L. Solis, Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 1, also in attendance, stated, “If we are more privileged, we should speak out louder.” The need to organize through protests, nonviolence, and civic engagement in local and federal elections was emphasized by guest speakers.
A panel focused on how the UCLA strives to support its undocumented community followed guest speaker presentations. Panelists shared their perspectives on the current services offered to undocumented students on campus and also discussed the need for civic participation and comprehensive immigration reform on a national level. Panelist Johana Guerra Martinez emphasized the plight of undocumented students is routinely undermined, “ we often struggle with where we belong, especially when doors are not always open for us.”
The event included lively cultural performances by Grupo Folklorico de UCLA, a dance group that focuses on regional and traditional dances of Mexico, Night of Cultura at UCLA, a Latinx theater and performing arts student group, and the multi-media exhibit: Undocumented Stories.
All speakers, advocates, and students asserted the 21st-century social movement against all forms of hate and violence embodied in the Trump Administration by reaffirming the need to stand up, speak out, and resist any and all anti-immigration policy and legislation. By highlighting the contributions of individuals and their own advocacy, the event served to enlighten those attending of the importance of individual efforts and activism in the formation of a just community and a just nation. Attendees also supported a unified movement, pronouncing solidarity with all other movements including LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, Religious Tolerance, Women’s Movement and many others that are experiencing hate at the wake of recent events.