Over 100 attend book launch, copies available online for $25
By Julia Berkman
UndocuStudents: Our Untold Stories has an upside-down cover.
Jenifer Becerril Pacheco, creator of the cover image and one of the co-chairs of Blue Group, joked about the error before performing her poem, In the wings of hope los sueños viven, in the Wilson Library Presentation Room.
The Blue Group’s newly minted copy of UndocuStudents is on sale, finally in print after months of being sold as a PDF only. The book, printed almost completely for free through Western CEDAR, contains poems, short stories and essays from undocumented students at Western.
Blue Group decided to host a panel and reading of excerpts from the book on March 1. Comprised of five undocumented students and former students, the panel hoped to shed light on how undocumented students live their day-to-day life, and how their status affects them.
An audience of over 100 people packed the windowless room for the event. People sat on the floor, along the walkways and next to the stage.
The message was simple: “We are here, we deserve to be here.”
However, some members of the panel said they still don’t feel welcomed by the campus at-large.
“I went back to my high school counselors and told them they lied to me. Higher education is not what I thought it was going to be,” Blue Group member Cindy Marquina-Negrete said with tears in her eyes.
According to Blue Group member and design major Maria Dimas, without the group her time at Western could be a lot worse.
“Without [the Blue Group], I’m positive I would have dropped out of college by now. That’s how hard it is for someone undocumented to succeed in a university that isn’t built for us,” she said.
Former Western student and Blue Group co-founder Maria Prieto held Marquina-Negrete’s hand as she answered a question from the panel.
“I’m so glad I was able to build something like this for you guys and no one has to drop out, because we have so much to offer,” said Prieto.
According to Marquina-Negrete and Blue Group advisor Emmanuel Camarillo, the idea for the book was to fundraise for the club and to give people a resource for first-person undocumented experiences. Camarillo said the book aimed to help Blue Group members who were feeling overwhelmed by the amount of presentations they were asked to do.
“We are asked to educate others and we aren’t compensated for that emotional labor,” Marquina-Negrete said during the panel.
Undocustudents contains first-person narratives and essays aimed to be cathartic for undocumented students.
One such piece was a letter written by Ixtlixochitl Ana Ramirez, former AS VP for Governmental Affairs, to Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a formerly-undocumented representative from New York.
Ramirez wrote to Espaillat because he gave her hope that undocumented people could rise the ranks of government. Ramirez said that she, too, hopes to be a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ramirez, who was elected to the AS Board last year, was not allowed to be compensated for her work or assume most of her duties because of her work authorization status. She resigned less than a month ago.
After the panel was done answering stock questions, they opened up the floor to the audience.
“How tangible is the fear, on a daily basis, of being deported or separated from your family?” asked a man in the back.
“None of us are safe. We are at risk at all time. There is not a day that goes by that we do not have to think about this. With the Supreme Court ruling that passed earlier this week, we know that we are not safe… We see this as a war on immigrants and a war on our community,” said Vicky Matey, Blue Group member.
This ruling made it possible for any immigrant, regardless of their status, to be detained indefinitely in detention centers.
“We want to put pressure on people who have power and money to do something about it, because if we’re not safe in a state that claims to support immigrants, how can we be safe anywhere else?” Matey continued.
The fear of deportation was heightened among Blue Group members after Trump’s election last year.
“I remember writing in my journal that day. A reminder from my ancestors that they were okay, I am okay, and I will be okay,” said Marquina-Negrete.
Another audience member asked when and why Blue Group members choose to disclose their status.
“If it’s in a space where I feel safe, I will share my status, but for me it’s who’s in the room and how I am perceived in that room,” said Yes Ygea, a Blue Group member from Mongolia.
Ygea, along with Matey, spoke on how it’s hard to decide whether to stand up and represent a group or stay safe and quiet.
“In classes, are faculty are using words like alien or illegal, are other students stepping up to correct them?” Matey asked. “It always falls on us. You can see that some people are uncomfortable, but they’ll never speak up. “
“It’s harder in Poli Sci classes when it’s just a discussion for most students, cause it’s real for us,” tone audience member added.
According to Becerril Pacheco, the best way to help out the Blue Group is by donating your time, money and privilege. Besides that, make getting educated your own responsibility.
“Please inform yourselves. We can teach you, but to do it over and over all the time is… we can explain things if you don’t get it, but it’s exhausting,” she said.
UndocuStudents: Our Untold Stories is available online for $25. All proceeds will go towards the Undocumented Students Resource Fund, which is where the Blue Group collects their funding and scholarship money.
So what’s next for the Blue Group? According to Fairhaven Law, Justice & Diversity Director Ceci Lopez, “that’s for them to dream it up and for us to support it.”
Updated 3/8 to fix ugly copy and paste formatting.