Claremont Community Rallies in Defense of DACA

Alex Vazquez PO ‘21 stands alongside student protesters and community members at the Rally for Immigrant Justice on Friday, carrying a sign that reads “Support Our Dreamers”. (Sarah Sundermeyer / The Student Life)

Students, faculty, and Claremont community members gathered in front of Honnold-Mudd Library Friday to defend students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and undocumented communities worldwide.

“This rally was an effort to improve community engagement and bring more awareness,” said Christian Padilla PO ’18, leader of the Claremont Immigrant Justice Coalition, which organized the event.

Padilla praised administrators for their efforts to support undocumented students both at the 5Cs and nationwide. He said the mobilization of affected communities has “demonstrated that people care.”

But within “the majority of white liberals, the support has not been there as much,” he added.

The rally featured a slew of speakers, including student leaders, professors, local community organizers, and a representative from Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ Pomona office. In between speeches, chants of “the people, united, will never be divided” and "sí, se puede" emanated from the nearly 300 attendees.

In her speech, professor of Chicano/a Latino/a studies Gilda Ochoa criticized the criminalization of immigrants and called for an inclusive defense of all immigrants.

“We are here focusing on the humanity of us all," Ochoa said. "This is not one group’s land and the power elite has no right to tell us who can or cannot be here."

Ochoa extended her defense of DACA to all undocumented immigrants. She argued that discriminating against DACA students and other undocumented people is counterproductive.

“To support DACA students and not undocumented communities is to repeat the policies that divide us,” Ochoa said.

Students attending the Rally for Immigrant Justice on Friday line up to donate money to fund a DACA legal clinic for undocumented students. (Sarah Sundermeyer / The Student Life)

Maria Melendrez PZ '16, Pomona College’s first generation and low-income student coordinator and a DACA recipient, expanded on Ochoa’s statement.

“I want to thank the rest of the community that has shown us that we are not alone and that together we will thrive,” Melendrez said.

Assistant professor of psychology and Chicano/a Latino/a studies Guadalupe Bacio shared a message of togetherness and mutual care.

“This is part of a struggle that has been ongoing for many years, so we need to take care of ourselves and we take care of each other,” Bacio said.

Bacio encouraged attendees to consider how they can use their personal resources to help their fellow community members.

Eva Thiel-Maiz, the county supervisor representative, read a statement highlighting immigrants’ positive impact on the American economy and encouraging those in need of support to contact the Office of Immigrant Affairs. Thiel-Maiz also announced that Los Angeles County implemented a one-year travel restriction for county employees on official business to the nine states that threatened legal action if the Trump administration did not end DACA: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Alex Sanchez, the founder of the Defend Movement, which rallies in support of marginalized communities in the Inland Empire, encouraged student activists.

“I love the fact that I see so many young people here because you are tomorrow’s leaders and I know we are in good hands,” he said.

Daniela Sada Doan PO ‘19, the head mentor of Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success, gave some advice for people seeking to support their undocumented peers.

“Make sure when you’re organizing events to support the undocumented community to actually consult them because sometimes things don’t get to us,” she said.

Jonelle Gonzalez (PO ‘18) attends the Rally for Immigrant Justice on Friday carrying a sign that reads: “They want to bury us, but they forget that we are seeds”. (Sarah Sundermeyer / The Student Life)

She recommended that students organizing such events contact IDEAS, and also warned students to be mindful of what they share on social media and to avoid sharing sensitive information or causing panic within the undocumented community.

Shayok Chakraborty PO ’19, a lead organizer of the College Community Action Network, used his speech to call students to action and to join CCAN.

“What we need to do is build power so we can fight back, and determine our own destinies and defend ourselves and take what is rightfully ours,” he said.

Padilla wrapped up the rally by encouraging students to take their activist work beyond the walls of the 5Cs after graduation.

“We need people in the 5Cs who will likely go on to some position of power to be advocates, not only for immigration justice but for general justice,” he said.

Next to the demonstration, CCAN raised funds to cover the $495 DACA renewal application fees for Pomona Unified School District high school students.

CCAN is collaborating with Uncommon Good, a local charity working to “break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and to work for the restoration of our plain," to organize a legal clinic in the city of Pomona.

“We saw this as a good opportunity to fundraise for our upcoming DACA legal clinic because these are all students who are invested in immigration issues,” said Isaac Harris PO ‘18, who was collecting donations for CCAN.

Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr also attemded the rally. 

"It is important for us with the privilege to show that we care," she said.

Pomona College president G. Gabrielle Starr chats with a student during the rally at Honnold/Mudd Library last Friday. (Sarah Sundermeyer / The Student Life)