As a fine mist of rain fell on the corner of Albany Street and Pico Boulevard, there was a small collection of twenty-somethings running up and down the street with a strange mix of excitement and anxiety. The symphony of cars kicking up water as they beat down West Pico Boulevard played an appropriate backdrop for signs reading “Immigration Legal Update;” everyone was determined to reach their destination despite the danger in traversing their path.
The event known as the Legal Immigration Update was held on an overcast Saturday morning, January 10th, 2015, inside the First Evangelical Free Church in Pico Union. The event was the brainchild of a collective of UCLA students with various affiliations like Gamma Zeta Alpha and Union Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios (USEU).
The formation of the collective was uniquely interesting in that the organization affiliations were, for the most part, white noise since it was a community organization, Jesus For Revolutionaries, that opened up the space for organizing. Started by UCLA [email protected] Studies, Professor Robert Chao-Romero, Jesus For Revolutionaries is a non-profit organization that works on intersection of race, social justice, and Christianity.
This group, however, focused on a more specific goal, as elaborated by UCLA student and organizer Jeylee Quiroz, “We came together because we were concerned about the lack of information about the previous executive orders and the recent upsurge in migrants escaping rampant violence in Central America.”
On the day of the event, a handful of community members were drawn by the presence of executive members of CARECEN, a local organization that works to empower Central Americans by defending human and civil rights, for legal guidance.
After discussing the history of Central American immigration, the significance of the current status of immigration reform, and intersectionality between immigration and the Asian-Pacific Islander (API) community, attendees were encouraged to participate in a group dialogue about the next steps for action. The ideas shared were diverse in their approaches. One member called for the creation of a podcast to inform and interact with the community. A member of CARECEN suggested a program to train students to assist with Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) applications once the application opens to the public.
In this hour-long discussion, facilitated by students in USEU, lawyers, students, and community members engaged one another in hopes of generating a clear plan of action. While time constraints prevented a consensus from manifesting, the organizers of the event expressed their gratitude and reenergized commitment to their original problematic (further elucidated by the dialogue.)
As the organizers helped to clean up after the event, there was a palpable sense of exhaustion and yet, ironically enough, a hunger for more. In taking down the signs on the corner of Pico and Albany, the organizers could not help but remark that while the clouds were still looming overhead, at least the rain stopped.
Readers looking for more information or a way to be involved in the work of this innovative collective can contact the collective by e-mail at [email protected]