SF State students gathered to support a Latinx community widely suffering from emotional trauma as it deals with a nation that’s increasingly hostile with anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Latinx students and allies from multiple campus organizations set up tables at Malcom X Plaza to raise awareness about immigrant rights during the second annual I Stand with Immigrants Day of Action at SF State on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
The Central Americans for Empowerment at SFSU, an Associated Students registered club, was there representing SF State’s Central American student population.
The club’s executive officer, health education student Brittany Contreras, said Central American trauma is unique and extremely recent with the latest stories about a caravan of migrants heading north from Honduras that has captured national attention.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, over 8,000 undocumented students are currently enrolled in the Cal State system.
“I would say that one the biggest struggles students face is the emotional trauma and mental issues that are coming out of the current xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric,” said Norma Salcedo, AB 540 Dream Coordinator and key organizer for SF State’s day of action.
According to Contreras, Central America is often under emphasized when talking about Latinx issues.
“Most people have a Mexican-centric mindset when thinking about the Latinx community,” she said. “Our narrative can sometimes be drowned out.”
Contreras said the club’s mission is to create a place where people from Central American backgrounds can get together and share their stories.
“Connecting with people who understand the things you go through is important for your health,” she said. “Having that connection with other people is empowering.”
Participants passed out information and carried out an interactive awareness campaign where students handmade signs that expressed their support of immigrant communities.
One sign read, “I stand with immigrants because we are human beings, not aliens, who want to live the lives we’ve fought for.”
“It was amazing to see that people wanted to stop by and take picture and know more about us and what we stand for,” Salcedo said.
Hosting the event was Dream Resource Center, an SF State center that help students with undocumented or mixed-status backgrounds navigate social and legal issues resulting from their status.
Located in the Student Services Building, the center provides academic and personal support for issues like food security and achieving AB 540 status, and also pairs students with local nonprofits offering legal and financial support.
State Assembly Bill 540 passed in 2001 allows students who are undocumented or U.S. Citizens/Permanent Residents to pay resident fees for California public institutions of higher learning..
Salcedo said at any campus, there are always financial needs.
“Especially here on this campus, we’re in the Bay Area which is one of the most expensive areas in the country,” she said. “A lot of our students are facing financial struggles because of that; not having a place to live, sleeping in their car, not having enough financial aid to pay for tuition or their expenses.”
Improving Dreams, Equity, Access, and Success or I.D.E.A.S., is a group located in the Dream Resource Center that offers a safe space where students of immigrant backgrounds can connect with one another and talk about these issues.
The organization host “Undocutalks,” a weekly group therapy session where undocumented students and allies can process the hardships of living undocumented in the United States. The meetings are held Thursdays at noon at the Dream Resource Center.
Carina Guido, psychology major at SF State and president of I.D.E.A.S says the organization participated in the day of action in order to raise campus awareness of its diverse AB 540 community.
“I.D.E.A.S. was created to advocate for our undocumented students and raise awareness about immigrant rights and issues that specifically affect immigrant communities,” Guido said.
The event’s co-sponsors included Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at SF State and the national bipartisan political advocacy group FWD.us. Located in Washington D.C., the group focuses on immigration and criminal justice issues and is responsible for implementing the I Stand with Immigrants Day of Action at 170 colleges and universities across the US.
According to Ali Procopio, FWD.us University Program Director, the campaign is a tool that campuses can use to raise issues that affect underrepresented groups in their student body. Procopio said schools have no protocol to follow.
“[The day is] about what the students on each campus make of it,” Procopio said.