In light of the recent election, student group Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success at UCLA hosted a weeklong series of events to draw attention to issues concerning undocumented students, who cannot vote in the United States, but are still impacted by national politics.
IDEAS ““ which represents undocumented students at UCLA and advocates for equal representation in higher education and fair immigration reform ““ organized “Bruins Without Borders Week” to educate about the legal and social challenges associated with being an undocumented student, said Mariana Villafana, a fifth-year art student who helped organize “Bruins Without Borders Week”, which concluded today.
Throughout the week, the organization hosted rallies on campus, screened a movie and led a student panel discussion, where undocumented students shared their experiences.
“Undocumented students don’t have (the right to vote), and we don’t want people who do have it to take it for granted,” Villafana said “We want voters to think of (undocumented students) when they vote.”
The organization hosted a similar event, “Undocumented Students Week,” last year, but decided to change the name to “Bruins Without Borders” to encompass other student groups that focus on similar social challenges, Villafana said.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender center donated buttons bearing the message, “Vote with Dreamers in mind,” said Regem Corpuz, a third-year political science student and external representative in IDEAS.
On Wednesday, the organization screened a movie called “Papers” ““ a documentary that features undocumented students who have difficulty entering college and face the threat of deportation.
During today’s rally, about 15 students stood in a circle in front of Kerckhoff Hall, holding signs and chanting “undocumented and unafraid” and “Up, up with education. Down, down with deportation.”
Among the students was Michael Reyes, a fourth-year English literature student, and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group that focuses on Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Reyes said he chose to participate in the event because he liked that students had assembled in support of something he believes in.
“Social groups would categorize themselves under different struggles. … This week is expanding the mental mindset that everyone is actually struggling,” he said.
Undocumented students in many states do not qualify for financial aid, and are unable to apply for certain jobs because they lack the documentation to do so.
“Although undocumented students are different, we are all here to do the same thing. It’s education,” said Janeth Lopez, a first-year gender studies and Chicano studies student, and external chair for IDEAS.
With the 2012 election and political campaigning now over, several members said they hope President Barack Obama will stay true to the promises he made to the minority communities, which include immigration reform.
Meanwhile, Lopez said she will continue pushing for the national DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as minors, graduated from U.S. high schools and lived in the country for at least five years, according to the Immigration Policy Center.
“I believe the next step is to mobilize even more support from our allies and keep fighting,” Lopez said.