IDEAS, a UCSB undocumented immigrant support and advocacy group, organized a walkout for immigration reform on Monday at 12 p.m. Over 100 people gathered in front of Storke Tower and marched towards Cheadle Hall. “Say it loud! Say it clear! Immigrants are welcome here,” they shouted. “The people! United! Will never be divided … If you build the wall, America will fall.”
March 5 was the day that President Donald Trump ordered the federal government to find a replacement for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that authorizes young undocumented immigrants to work and stay in the country. “We use today as a way to protest and walk out and make sure people know we are here, and we need immigration reform,” said Monica Cornejo, a graduate student in the communication department and a collaborator of IDEAS. Cornejo came to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of six.
There were 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, which is lower than the peak of 12.2 million during the recession in 2007, when this group made up 4 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center.
Under DACA, the Department of Justice approved 790,000 young unauthorized immigrants work permits and deportation relief since former President Barack Obama created it five years ago, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data.
However, DACA recipients, along with other undocumented immigrants, “have lived in constant fear and uncertainty,” and cite Trump’s inauguration as a turning point. Over the last five months, “this fear and uncertainty has grown exponentially due to the decision to rescind DACA and threats of mass deportation,” according to a UCSB IDEAS Facebook post.
“We are tired of living in fear and being scapegoats of this country’s societal problems due to a broken immigration system,” according to the Facebook post.
“The fight has just begun,” said Laslie, a fourth year psychology major and coach of IDEAS, who declined to provide her last name. “I acknowledge that we might not share the similar ethnicities, but I believe our common goal is moving forward to create positive change to outweigh these differences. That is why we are here united today for one cause and that is to march for all 11 million.”
Cornejo also shared her experience, “The only difference is that when talking about being a U.S. American, I am not allowed to stay in America because I lack a piece of paper, because I am undocumented.”
“The only memory I have of Mexico is the pictures on the wall, and I have been here, in the U.S., for almost two decades. I was raised here by my parents to understand and value American ideals norms and culture, and navigate the education system, which has allowed me to be currently pursuing a Ph.D while undocumented,” Cornejo said. “I am very proud that I am in this country, even though I alone with 11.7 million undocumented immigrants are under a constant reminder that we are not welcomed here.”
After the march to Cheadle Hall, students shared their ideas. Gabriel X, a transfer student who identified as an immigrant, shared his rap about people who are undocumented. The main idea of his music is about why people across the border.
“People treat us very bad because our color is different,” X said. “It’s relevant [to this walkout], because we fight for our rights, that’s the content of my rap too.”
Jose Sanchez, another undocumented student who came to the U.S. in 2003, sang a Spanish song.
“The song is called ‘La jaula de oro,’ which is translated to the Prison of Gold. It touches on achieving the American Dream, but there is [sic] also a lot of things prevent you from achieving your goals and dreams,” Sanchez said. “It says ‘I don’t even go out because I’m scared of being deported / My kids don’t speak Spanish, they speak English, and they don’t talk to me anymore.’”
Although the future of undocumented immigrants remains fuzzy, some UCSB students and faculty are promoting a mobilized environment for them. “I think it’s really important for us as members of the UCSB community to realize that what goes on in our classrooms doesn’t exist in a vacuum and that there is an ongoing struggle for access to education at local, state, and national levels, and that this struggle is part of a larger and more comprehensive movement to defend the rights of undocumented immigrants,” said Caroline Crouch, a graduate student in linguistics. Crouch cancelled her class to support the walkout.
“Those of us who do have access to higher education and are able to support the rights of undocumented immigrants — whether by voting or by attending walkouts, rallies, etc. —absolutely should and must do so,” Crouch said.