Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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Berkeley City College students travel to D.C. to protest DACA hearings

Students from Undocumented Community Resource Center advocate at national rally
BCC student activists (from left) Yanelit Madriz, Esther Cuan, Carolina Martinez, Nayeli Fonseca, and faculty advisor Gabriel Martinez. (Photo courtesy of UCRC)

Berkeley City College (BCC) student activists traveled to Washington D.C. to protest the potential end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, could likely end the program — an Obama-era policy that provides temporary protection from deportation for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. The three BCC students — along with Counseling Department Chair Gabriel Martinez and staff assistant Carolina Martinez — traveled 3,000 miles to make their voices heard.

Carolina Martinez learned about the protest while attending a Define American summit in Kentucky in October. Define American is a non-profit that aims to shift the perspective on immigrants through media and culture. Co-founder of BCC’s Undocumented Community Resource Center (UCRC), Carolina Martinez attended the Define American summit with Yanelit Madriz, a second-year student pursuing an associates degree in sociology. Madriz is a mental health advocate at UCRC and the West Regional Representative for Define American.

Define American sponsored the trip, allowing Carolina Martinez and Madriz as well as students Nayeli Fonseca and Esther Cuan, with faculty advisor to UCRC, Gabriel Martinez, to attend the protest in D.C. All three students work or volunteer at the resource center and felt was necessary to attend the protest in order to represent undocumented students and community members whose legal status might prevent them from attending.

“I am a proud Chicana and undocumented ally,” Madriz said, adding that she was inspired to attend the protest to honor her parents that would not be able to attend because of their immigration status.

“All the steps we took marching, and all the chants I yelled, was for them.”

A victim of violence, Carolina Martinez immigrated from Mazatlan, Mexico, 15 years ago. She overstayed her visitor visa and became undocumented. Later she was granted a U-Visa, a non-immigrant visa for victims of crimes. She received her green card — a permanent resident ID issued to immigrants — in Jan. 2019.

“I think that a piece of paper does not define me as a person but definitely gives me many privileges and benefits that I did not have before, things that perhaps documented individuals don’t even think about — such as living in fear, not being able to find jobs, or ordering a drink at a restaurant because you don’t have an ID,” Carolina Martinez said. Her experiences living undocumented inspired her to attend the protest.

“My community needs the support, and it is in my heart to be there.” Carolina Martinez said.

Second-year student Esther Cuan identifies as an ally and attended for those who were unable or didn’t have the courage to attend. “[I] have zero regrets in saying that the undocumented community gives more to this country then they receive from this country,” Cuan said.

First-year student and biochemistry major Nayeli Fonseca Martinez said “I wanted to be a part of an empowerment so I can experience firsthand a fight for change.” Fonseca Martinez said she has met many others who are “DACA-mented” — and “[I ]am aware of the issues it has presented to those who are undocumented like myself.”

During the protest, students met “DACA-mented” actor Bambadjan Bamba who wanted to show support at the protest. Martinez said that Bamba’s visibility was important as it illustrates that this issue is not limited to Latinx immigrants.

After returning from the protest, students voiced concern that DACA will soon end and hope that undocumented students will continue to be protected and know their rights.

“DACA and TPS (Temporary Protection Status) offer a lot to the undocumented community, but that it isn’t enough. It is simply the start for a cause that could potentially allow so many undocumented families to find peace and a better chance at living a fair life,” Cuan said.

Madriz said her concern is that undocumented students not only feel like they don’t belong in school, but they don’t belong in this country. She wanted to point out that when you are undocumented, there is never a time that being undocumented isn’t a concern or stressful.

“So, if someone comes out to you and tells you they are undocumented, student or not, tell them it’s okay and give them a hug. Be the best ally possible. Finally, if you are reading this and are undocumented, I want to tell you it’s okay. You are worthy, and you belong,” Madriz said.

For more information and support at all Peralta colleges:

Contact the Berkeley City College Undocumented Community Resource Center at (510) 981- 5004.

Visit Laney College’s AB540 website for information about qualifying for in-state tuition.

Visit College of Alameda’s Undocumented Student Rights and Services website

Visit Merritt College’s DACA website

About the Contributor
James Millett
James Millett, Managing Editor
An aspiring Andy Rooney, James Millett has spent one semester writing for The Citizen. His personal mantra “hell is other people” is taken from a play by Sartre, “No Exit.” Millett’s theme song is “Desperado” by Rihanna. In his spare time, Millett likes to sit.
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