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New activist coalition seeks to fight mass deportation of immigrants

The United Coalition Against Mass Deportations held a student rally in Bruin Plaza last week to share stories about mass deportations of illegal immigrants to Central America. (Rocío Flores Huaringa/DailyBruin)

By Eliza Blackorby

Jan. 29, 2016 7:19 a.m.

The newly formed activist coalition held a student rally Jan. 20 to share student stories about mass deportations of immigrants who entered the U.S. through illegal means back to Central America.

Several student groups combined to form the United Coalition Against Mass Deportations on Jan. 12. One week later, they engaged the student body in a protest and released a list of demands that called for UCLA administrators to take action.

The coalition organized the protest, which took place in Bruin Plaza, to stand in solidarity with affected students and their families. Many members of the coalition are undocumented or have undocumented family members, said Clelia Flores, an event organizer and fourth-year African American studies student.

Since early January, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported hundreds of families who fled their home countries, such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, to escape the violence and civil unrest. The U.S. federal government does not consider immigrants from these countries refugees.

Unión Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios, a Central American cultural group, held a meeting on Jan. 12 to form a response to the issue of mass deportations, said Flores, an access and retention coordinator for USEU. Members of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, a group that celebrates Chicano culture and promotes higher education, and Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success, an organization that advocates for undocumented students, also attended the event.

The student groups, as well as the Afrikan Student Union and Night of Cultura, signed the list of demands, which urged UCLA to publicly denounce raids on undocumented families and actively advocate for undocumented students’ rights. Students suggested administrators collaborate with them to draft a plan that ensures access to higher education for undocumented students and lobbies against current immigration policy.

Cesar Ayala, a fourth-year political science student and member of MEChA and IDEAS, said he thinks one of the most tangible demands is banning the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from the UCLA campus. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have attended campus career events to recruit students in the past.

He added he thinks this would create a sanctuary for undocumented students and help them feel secure and welcome.

Ana Salcedo, a fourth-year Chicana/o studies student and member of MEChA, said the coalition hopes to host a community forum to further discuss the issue.

“We want UCLA, as an institution that holds a lot of power, to really take a stand,” she said. “How do they expect us to be students and come here … when our families are being affected by these things?”

UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in an email statement UCLA and Chancellor Gene Block are sympathetic to the struggles undocumented students face. He added campus officials will continue to support them by remaining receptive to new ideas and solutions.

Ayala said he and other members of the coalition participated in a Tuesday protest that blocked the street in front of Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in downtown Los Angeles.

They chanted the mantra “undocumented, unafraid” as officers, dressed in riot gear, demanded they move onto the sidewalk. He added it seemed there was a one-to-one ratio of officers and protesters.

Ayala said he thinks the protest downtown made clear the importance of bringing activism back to UCLA. He added he felt the movement is still in its early stages but is gaining momentum.

Flores said the coalition also aims to extend its action into Los Angeles communities affected by deportation by partnering with nonprofit organizations like Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families and distributing informational pamphlets about legal rights.

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