SF State’s Improving, Dreams, Access and Success (IDEAS) organization maintained a positive mood at their election de-stress event, despite being interrupted by a man who used crude language toward them.
The unidentified, elderly man sat on a couch in front of the live-stream that IDEAS set up for undocumented students and allies to watch the results of the election interrupted a conversation that event organizers were having with the crowd.
The man tried to sympathize with the students by telling them that he didn’t want Donald Trump to be elected, while addressing the students as “illegal aliens.”
“He can’t talk like that to a group of people who he doesn’t identify with,” said Manuel Martinez, a civil engineering major. “This is my safe area. I see the ignorance of the world every day, but not in my safe area, that hurts.”
Members of IDEAS asked the man to stop interrupting them, but the man interrupted about five more times before being escorted outside the room by event organizers.
“He doesn’t know the difference between illegal and undocumented. He doesn’t know the issues that affect undocumented students,” said Eurania Lopez, student success director, longtime advocate of IDEAS.
IDEAS decided to form a circle because students were upset and cried after the incident. Yolanda Gamboa, from counseling and psychological services at SF State, told the circle of students and allies that the man probably didn’t know what it’s like to be targeted.
“Part of what we did was to breathe, reduce tension and voice our experiences,” said Gamboa. “What they are trying to fight was presented right in front of them today.”
Gamboa says that being an undocumented student is stressful already, and the election has increased this feeling among students. “Whoever gets elected president will affect what will happen in their lives, and that affects their performance at school.”
“We represent the school and we need to show that we are not ignorant. Represent yourself and the organization, and represent yourself in a positive way,” said Mariel De Paz, a political science major and secretary of IDEAS.
De Paz said that most CSUs have a dream center where undocumented students can get help and counseling from staff that have had similar experiences. However, SF State doesn’t.
Mariel De Paz said being undocumented didn’t affect her until she went to college, because undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition, unless they qualify for AB540 status, which allows them to work, have a driver’s license and pay in-state tuition.
“The man’s outburst today shows that we need safe spaces for undocumented students so they know they are not alone,” said Norma Salcedo, the first IDEAS coordinator, who took on the role four months ago.
SF State has over 500 undocumented students, and Salcedo helps them by referring them to free legal support, free healthcare advice, and other resources. “My position is proven to be needed,” she said.
Gamboa says as an undocumented student there is fear of losing access to education, and that’s why it is important to support each other whatever the result of the election is. “We will continue advocating and providing a safe place,” she said.
The TV was showing live election updates while some students relaxed with Play-Doh, gathered to colour, and lay on couches. A Donald Trump piñata stood high in front of the entrance of the Rigoberta Menchu Hall with sticky notes on him.
“It’s a clever idea, something that has been done for sure,” said Daniel Negrete, a 24-year old BECA student from Mexico City.
Negrete learned about this event through the Dreamer network. “I came to the event because of the live viewing and because I didn’t want to watch it by myself.”
“Today is going to be a stressful day for different communities. It’s (the election) become hostile and undocumented students feel frustrated, because they can’t vote,” said Pamela Ortiz, one of the two presidents of Improving, Dreams, Access and Success organization.
The event intended to help undocumented students and allies who shared frustration with the election and ended with IDEAS chanting “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”