Immigration Reality: Raising awareness on campus

By Veronica Morley/ Features Editor

To read up on part one of this series click here

To read up on part two of this series click here

By Veronica Morley

Features Editor

The U.S. immigrant community may have many concerns but CSU Bakersfield is expressing its fealty for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“I obtained my green card under Ronald Reagan’s Amnesty Act. I don’t recall living in fear that I would be deported until I met my children’s father who was in the country illegally,” said Heidi Forsythe.

Forsythe is an alumna of CSUB and adjunct professor here as well as Bakersfield College.

Forsythe was born in Mexico in 1977 and came to the U.S. when she was three years old. As a student at CSUB, she said she never had the same fears of deportation that others may experience today.

Although CSUB has continued to support a Dream Act and undocumented students, the recent repeal of the DACA by President Trump in September has left many in discord.

One DACA student, Ana Chavez, is working to help undocumented students receive the support they need. She and other students this year have attempted to reestablish the school club United Now for Immigrants Rights (UNIR). The group meets on Thursdays in DDH 103G at 3 p.m.

“We’re preparing this coming break to plan activities and more workshops to help any students. We would like next semester to have more counseling and support groups,” said Chavez.

Forsythe remembers when she was a young immigrant living in Lamont she never realized the stuggles other immigrants may face. Even after receiving her green card at seven years old, she never thought about her status or how she differed from other students.

“I was also living in poverty but maybe I didn’t look like I was poor.  I remember telling my classmates that if they were going to call these Mexican students ‘wetbacks’ then they should call me one too, and I pulled out my green card.  The teasing soon stopped,” she said.

Chavez hopes that by reestablishing UNIR, immigrant students will feel this same sense of responsibility that Forsythe felt towards standing up for one another.

“I really advise them to check it out and to get into the community to express themselves. Especially with DACA being rescinded we want congressmen to act,” she said.

The support for immigrant rights in Kern County extends further than just CSUB. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro shared his hopes that the California congress will support to pass a Clean Dream bill.

“My advice to Dreamers wherever they are would be to continue to raise their voices, to get involved in advocacy, and to push back,” he said. He also expressed his sympathies for the CSUB Dreamers who may feel unease in Kern County. “The majority of Americans understand that these young people are adding a lot of value to our country and that they’re morally blameless for being here in the United States and that the United States is a place that they consider home,” he said.

The library program “Walter Presents” has also shown their interest and support for undocumented students.

In October, the library invited Don Bartletti, of the Los Angeles Times, to share his experiences documenting immigration. Bartletti spent 32 years travelling through various areas of South America and photographing immigrants.

The following event was a public screening of the documentary “American Migrant Stories” which follows groups here in Kern County.

On Nov. 16, as part of the CA Writers Series, poet Vicki Vertiz performed a reading of her latest work in the Dezember Reading Room. Her poems spoke especially to Latino culture and immigrant struggles.

UNIR hosted a workshop on Nov. 17 to help Dreamers understand the application process for the Dream Act and other scholarships.

The workshop was run by Stephanie Perez who works in the financial aid office with undocumented students. Perez says she has a special passion for her Dreamers.

“If there’s any definition of dream, it’s my AB545 students,” said Perez. She herself is a sixth generation citizen. Her family originally migrated to the U.S. from Holland and she feels strongly about the treatment of immigrants in the U.S. “No one really has claim to this land in my opinion, unless you’re Native American,” she said.

Perez also wants students, immigrant or not, to feel comfortable asking the financial aid office for help. She believes students, especially those living in student housing, have a false fear about aid and taking out loans. She wants students to understand that taking out loans is sometimes necessary, but does not mean the end of the world.

If there was any question of CSUB’s support for immigrants, it should be put to rest.

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