By Jackie Bueno
Preface: This article will discuss immigration, a very nuanced and complex topic that’s one of the main reasons for the recent government shutdown. Here’s a link to better understand immigration policies in the U.S. such as DACA: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/16/16879632/daca-bill-durbin-graham
Start of Article.
With the recent detainment of UC Berkeley student Luis Mora, it appears that immigration in the local community of Berkeley students has been brought to people’s attention more than ever, uniting members of the undocumented community both at and outside Cal along with their allies alike to show outward support against divisive rhetoric used towards the undocumented community.
To learn more about Luis Mora’s Detainment, see this article from the Daily Cal: http://www.dailycal.org/2018/01/08/detained-uc-berkeley-student-receives-bond-hearing-date/
I think it’s extremely important that in times like these, we let individuals from these communities take the space they need to allow them to tell their story best. Personally, I’m tired of having to explain to individuals in 2018 why all 11 million undocumented individuals deserve to stay in this country. That’s why I wanted to interview and highlight one of my good friends, Kim Robledo.
Kim is a sophomore at Cal who served as the ASUC National Lobby Corps Manager last semester and will serve as the Policy Advisor in the ASUC this semester. I met Kim when I lobbied alongside her and Dominick in Washington D.C. over spring break in 2017. In D.C., we lobbied in both Democratic and Republican offices on undocumented students, immigration, mental health, and student housing. I knew Kim was someone who I immediately wanted to be good friends given her outstanding and innate sense of leadership in addition to her courage to lobby on tough issues such as immigration. I have no doubt Kim is someone who will go far in life, and I’m proud to call her my friend for she is the type of leader our Latinx community needs to ensure the voices of the Latinx community and those of the undocumented community are being heard and represented.
Read our interview below:
Jackie: Tell me about where you grew up.
Kim: I’m from Mexicali, Mexico, which is across the Southern Border. I came to U.S when I was six years old and overstayed my Visa. We ended up somewhere near L.A., and I grew up there until the eighth grade. Growing up in the U.S. was difficult because I didn’t fit in. I stood out because I only spoke Spanish; although others in my class spoke Spanish, they didn't think it was cool and labeled me as weird for speaking another language other than English, but once I learned English, I learned to assimilate to U.S. culture without knowing what I was giving up as an individual.
Jackie: Why did your parents decide to come here?
Kim: For a better life. They wanted to give me the education and life they knew I could never have in Mexico. In Mexico, the people that have money are those that have the privilege to receive a good education, which was not a reality for my family, so that’s why we moved. I could honestly not be more thankful for the opportunities I have been given, although it has come to some expense: fear for the lives of my parents and I.
Jackie: What work have you done to help the undocumented community at Cal and those on other campuses?
Kim: The work I do at Cal is for the entire community all across the country. Last semester I lobbied to both Democrats and Republicans for a more progressive immigration reform. DACA, at best, may be an avenue for bipartisan compromise, but that compromise is at the expense of generations to come. A #cleanDREAMAct is necessary to protect not only students, but the laborers and migrant families whose work is the backbone of our society and who have been further marginalized by arbitrary age restrictions and narratives of educational elitism. As I have advocated for an actual immigration reform that can affect more than the youth I have come across the conclusion that the end goal is not necessarily citizenship itself rather self liberation and the abolishment of oppression.
The trips where I lobbied focused on a variety of things but mainly on immigration. I didn’t lobby for what I thought was best for me but rather for what was best for my community. What I ended up lobbying for was not for any specific legislation, rather I went into these Congressional offices to inform them what they are missing within the legislation that can have an impact on the bigger population of the undocumented community. For example, I met with Luis Gutiérez, who has come up with the most progressive immigration reform in congress as of now; however, I told him it was not enough because it didn’t help my parents nor the parents and loved ones of others’.
What’s made it hard to have a clean DREAM Act though is that Republicans want more border patrol security and more funding for ICE. If one actually did more investigation on this issue, one would realize that the wall is not the solution to immigration either way. When I go on these trips I keep my community and parents in mind.
Truthfully, I did not want to support anything without the full support of my community and this was not confirmed until my second trip while I was in Washington. What happened was that the Undocumented Student Coalition at the UC Level voted to support a clean DREAM Act so there I went.
Throughout my time in organizing federal trips I also increased the diversity of students that go on these lobbying trips by recruiting more undocumented students and students of color to travel with me. I felt that it was important for me to have more diverse voices, so they could tell their narratives and as students of color take up space that is often not given to us.
I’ve also gone to court hearings for the undocumented community and provided support for undocumented families currently affected by ICE.
Right now, I’m also working on the Undocumented Student Coalition at Berkeley which includes students from cultural spaces such as RISE and other programs at school. The reason this was created to have more dialogue about the issues that members of the undocumented community face on a daily basis as well as to acknowledge the fact that undocumented students serve in different places since they have their own goals as individuals. This is also a space where we inform one another about the work we do and avoid overlapping while encouraging collaboration across the community. Every organization and individual brings something unique to our discussions. This coalition is a recognition of one of our greatest yet most underestimated strengths: unity through individuality.
Jackie: You mentioned that the DREAM Act needs to be cleaner. Could you expand on what you mean by this?
Kim: For example, most Republicans are currently bargaining over rights for undocumented individuals and want to instead build a wall, provide funding for ICE but what they want is not what we, the undocumented community, want our politicians to give into. What many undocumented individuals are scared of is that if the DREAM Act were to pass or another piece of legislation, that we would have to trade in our parents because the reality is not everyone is going to be able to qualify.
It’s a fragile line that we’re walking here. What can happen is if we get the DREAM Act, then we finally get citizenship, but how can we make sure those who will not qualify will still be safe? It’s easy to give into the demands of the Republican Party but at this point, we can’t.
Jackie: It sounds like support is greatly needed for the undocumented community. How do you think legislation on this issue can adequately ensure that the undocumented community is not subject to concessions by the Republican Party?
Kim: I think going to events, going to rallies, and talking to Congressional staff all help, but at the end of the day but in terms of how clean it is, that’s gonna be based on how well the Democrats are going to do what they have promised us. Folkx can use their status to help us all but only so few are willing to support us. It's not just about sympathising with our cause and labor as brown folkx and then call yourself an ally, it’s more than that.
Jackie: What do you think of the recent incident with Luis Mora?
Kim: I really think it’s more than unfair and a sad situation because you never know when things like this can happen. All he’s trying to do is get an education and better himself and even the way he’s been treated during the time he was detained was dehumanizing because he is an individual with feelings in which my eyes has done nothing wrong. It’s honestly all dehumanizing. I don’t have the words to describe it because I’m not there and can’t speak for him.
Jackie: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions of undocumented immigrants?
Kim: That not everyone fighting for a Clean Dream Act is a student and not all DACA recipients are students. Many individuals of the undocumented community only work. There is more to the Dreamer narrative that Congress has created such as the good versus bad immigrant that has divided our community. The goods ones are those who have DACA; everyone else is bad, which is not true. This false perception has criminalized many members of our community. Our parents are not criminals. Lastly, not everyone who is undocumented is Mexican; there are people from all over the world that are also undocumented in this country.
Jackie: How do you think that allies can provide support to the undocumented community?
Kim: We’ve been using a lot of social media campaigns, so changing your profile pic, calling the number, etc. helps. Obviously the more people that can help, doing small things like that updating your cover photo to something that can help individuals such as Luis. Also using their citizenship status to support them and showing up to rallies and court hearings can make a difference. It is also important to understand where we come from as individuals and the limitations and fear we hold due to our status.
Jackie: How has your experience been as an undocumented student at Cal?
Kim: Really eye-opening because for example, I didn’t know that the perception of a Dreamer was negative and the harm it has done to my community. Also, it’s been hard because sometimes you might be the only undocumented student in a class, but I don’t think it’s been impossible. Having support from mentors like Lupe Gallegos and my housemates from Casa Sin Fronteras have given me the support I need at Cal. Going from school to Casa is liberating because I do not have to fight for my humanity nor my rights because they all understand. But of course I would never be here without my parents who have sacrificed so much for me to be here.
Jackie: How do you think the University could better support undocumented students?
Kim: They can definitely support us a lot better. They tell us they support us, yet their actions speak differently. It’s like what are you doing about it? We need funds and actual support. Since a lot of the undocumented student population is non-DACA, they can’t work and be paid, so they need support. Most of the time all they do is give us promises, but most of the times, where is the follow-up and accountability on those promises?
End of interview.
Jackie Bueno is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Sociology. For further inquiries or if you would like to be featured, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After this interview was conducted, Luis Mora was released from ICE on Wednesday, January 17, 2018. Mora’s release is proof that community organizing works.
To continue providing support against the detainment of individuals in the undocumented community, please see this link to community centers at Cal such as RISE to learn how you can show outward support on this issue:
RISE at Berkeley: https://www.facebook.com/RISEatBerkeley/