Publish date: March 8, 2018
On March 5, 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 the conference, Immigration Forum: Students Speak Out! During the lively forum, students discussed the significance of the March 5 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 5 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. In reference to the exclusivity of the DACA program and the DREAMer narrative, 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.” DACA, TPS, community involvement, student activism, and unwavering advocacy were the major topics explored throughout the forum.
In addition to student speakers, the event featured a lineup of prominent statewide and local leaders, including Gilbert Cedillo (Los Angeles City Councilmember, District 1), Monica Garcia (Los Angeles Unified School District 2 Representative), and Maria Elena Durazo (Democratic National Committee Vice-Chair incumbent, running for California State Senate in the 24th District). Hilda L. Solis (Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 1) stated, “If we are more privileged, we should speak out louder.” Guest speakers emphasized the need to organize through protests, nonviolence, and civic engagement in local and federal elections.
A panel that focused on how UCLA strives to support its undocumented community 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 that 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 multimedia art exhibit Undocumented Stories.
All speakers, advocates, and students expressed support for the social movement against the hate and violence embodied by the Trump Administration and reaffirmed the need to stand up, speak out, and resist any and all anti-immigration policy and legislation. By highlighting the contributions of others and their own advocacy, the speakers demonstrated the importance of individual efforts and activism in the formation of a just community and a just nation. Attendees also announced their solidarity with all other movements, including the LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, religious tolerance, women’s, and many other movements that are supporting groups experiencing hate in the wake of recent events.