Undocumented students speak in panel to discuss immigration

JULIA LEE, Channels Staff

Students shared personal stories and discussed the logistics of immigration at the “Untold Stories: (UN)Documented Narratives” panel from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19 in the Business Communications Forum.

Three students on the panel spoke under aliases to protect their undocumented identities and avoid governmental repercussions. The Channels has chosen to respect their identities and refers to such aliases throughout this article.

The event was hosted by the Student Equity Committee, SBCC Foundation, English as a Second Language Department, Ethnic Studies Department, School of Justice Studies, CAUSE and IDEAS Club.

“There are 40,000 undocumented immigrants in Santa Barbara,” said Maricela Morales, Executive director of CAUSE. “If that many people were out-ed, we would all be touched in some way. So we have to organize. We need to use our voice.”

Selected students had the opportunity to let their voices be heard to the filled auditorium through microphones and loud speakers.

“We honor our voices,” said Luis Giraldo, Director of Equity, Diversity and Cultural Competency. “We honor our stories. We honor the sacredness of our stories.”

The evening started off with Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Power of Words” video. Then, the panelists took the stage to speak their minds freely and frankly.

“I found out the way it impacts me when I was called illegal, it really puts me down everywhere I go,”  said the student going by the name of Arturo. “It’s like a label on my back, like I don’t deserve anything in life, don’t deserve to become better.

“I can feel the looks of people who think I don’t belong there.”

Arturo said that the only thing keeping him going is the fact that he knows the value of an education. He explained that he feels as though coming to school is his “only chance to be a better person, to have a better life.”

He continued to express his fears and emphasize his true morals.

“I’m not a person to create crime. I’m not a rapist. I’m not here to do bad things. We have all the same dreams despite the color of our skin and background.”

The next speaker went by the name of Elizabeth. Elizabeth shared that her father came to the United States when he was 25 years old, searching for “something more.”

“At the age of 9, I found out I was undocumented,” she said. “Because of DACA, I’ve been able to provide for my family.

“We need to start to change the lens of how we view immigration, and need to embrace all diversity and culture they bring along with them.”

The third student’s alias was named Anna. She immigrated from Mexico with her family in 2003.

“I didn’t show my face because I can’t put my family at risk,” Anna said. “We wanted our family to be together.”

Anna shared her belief in the necessity of a bill allowing the legalization of immigrants coming into this country.

“We’re here to build our communities and contribute to the country,” she said. “We have to address the criminal justice system in order to address the immigration system.”

Saturne Tchabong, president of City College’s Black Student Union, also shared her personal testimony.

At the conclusion of the panel, Craig Cook, American Ethnic Studies and Black Studies teacher, presented a slideshow. His presentation compared the terms “illegal” and “undocumented,” and touched on the impact of immigration in U.S. He also briefly went over DACA and DAPA.

“The story of immigration is inseparable from U.S. history,” Cook said. “Immigration has made the U.S.”