Last night’s event and celebration of the ten year anniversary of Underground Undergrads: ucla undocumented immigrant students speak out had a lot of great speakers that left the audience with hope and a willingness to share their own stories. I will be writing a recap of the event, in case you missed out.
First, let me tell you a little bit about what the book is about. Underground Undergrads: ucla undocumented immigrant students speak out, is a student lead publication that uses storytelling to showcase the struggles that UCLA undocumented students faced while pursuing higher education. The book consists of three parts, a legislation timeline, speaking out (stories of undocumented students using pseudonyms), and taking action.
The purpose of the event was to celebrate the anniversary of the book, and to highlight the importance of storytelling as a tool that we can continue to use to achieve immigrant justice. The agenda’s first portion consisted of a panel of UCLA alumni who were also part of the book. The first questioned posed was what were some of the barriers that you faced while creating the book. Hector stated that at the time one could not publicly come out and he remembers his mother telling him that he could not tell his best friend that he was undocumented. The next question addressed whether the panelist have changed as people after the publication. Gabriela stated that before they would provide information to the public about undocumented students, now it is more about being hopeful and having faith. The last question asked the panelists where they are today, and Fabiola is working for the city of Los Angeles, Hector is an organizer, and Gabriela is an educator.
Ernesto Rochoa’s segment titled, Liberation in your Story touched on the importance of belonging in this country in other peoples perspectives only when one arrives here. However, one has a story that starts back in their respective countries. Ernesto states in regards to storytelling, “It would be a shame for me to go back into whatever imaginary closet there is to be an undocumented person, like I have understood that stories have power, and if i leave that down, it would be a huge disservice to my eight year old self, it would be a huge disservice to my mother and to my brother who was deported, there is no way for us to turn back.” Ernesto invites us to own as many different spaces as we can, self reflect and be who we are.
Frida the co-chair of IDEAS spoke about the progress of IDEAS and how students like Hector, Susan, and Fabiola have paved the way for undocumented student to gain resources such as the Undocumented Student Program, USPARC (mentoring program)…etc. Frida states that it is important to go back and serve our communities as students in higher education and for allies to get involved.
The UCLA Alumni Association addressed that they are planning on starting an undocumented alumni association to provide a support group and a safe space for undocumented students. Another reason why this is important is because some undocumented students do not have access to university funds such as scholarships if they do not meet AB540 status or are DACA recipients. This will also allow undocumented students to gain access to money.
Kent Wong, the Director of the UCLA Labor Center emphasized the power of the publication of underground undergrads. Wong declared that the book gave a voice to other youth. Wong also stated, “It is the U.S. government that should be ashamed for the way they have treated our immigrant youth over the years.” We celebrate this book because it is a historical piece in which undocumented students shared their feelings and experiences which created hope in others.
The Undocumented Stories Exhibit was displayed at the event and was presented by Carlos Salinas. The exhibit makes undocumented stories available to other communities, which detail how migration occurs and how story tellers adapted to their new lifestyles. Salinas questions us to think,” How are you taking ownership of your story?”
The event celebrated the publication of the first of a series of undocumented students stories, while showcasing the impact that storytelling has on immigrant communities and beyond.
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