Know Your Rights Claremont — creating safe spaces and empowering the local immigrant community

A group of women smile at the camera.
Know Your Rights Claremont hosted a clinic Feb.1 in Pomona. (Courtesy: Lily Lucas)

In early 2017, a few months after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a group of 5C students banded together to form Know Your Rights Claremont, an organizing initiative that works to inform the local community about legal rights for workers and undocumented individuals.

Fast forward to 2019: The group, with most of its members about to graduate, was in danger of fizzling out. But now, a younger group of 5C students have taken up the torch and revived the initiative, and they’re hoping to pick up where past KYR members left off.

“The group before us was really self-sufficient in terms of resources, so we’re not exactly starting from scratch,” said Amelia Carttar PO ’22, one of the group’s lead organizers. “Their legacy helped plan the clinic we just held and will inform the clinics we have in the future.”

KYR clinics are a crucial part of the KYR foundation, Carttar said. KYR members collaborate with volunteering local attorneys and local activist organizations, such as the Pomona Day Labor Center and the California Association for Bilingual Education, to create public clinics where community members can discuss their various rights as laborers and DACAmented and undocumented immigrants with trained specialists in a safe space.

KYR member Gabriela Jimenez PO ’23 explained that safe spaces like clinics are an important part of KYR’s mission to educate people who might feel they are stuck or must live in fear. 

“KYR is all about … being able to empower people with information and trying to fight the fear that is fueled by misinformation,” she said. “I think in immigrant communities especially [it’s] about having access to information needed to just live your life — like knowing tenant rights or how to get your license — because sometimes it’s not just about [getting] documentation. It’s being able to live in peace.”

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Jazmin Trenco PO ’23, another KYR newcomer, noted how the political climate of the last several years has informed current KYR activism, and how the group can instill hope and justice in a community. 

“Right now, with everything going on [in the] political climate … we often see people with no hope who are living in really intolerant communities, so [KYR] is a really direct way to spread hope and get to know your community,” Trenco explained. “[Being] in KYR, you know, I’m making myself useful and being a resource.”

Carttar and co-leader Lily Lucas SC ’22 re-started the group with initially low expectations, as they had no members, Carttar said.

“It was really exciting when we got our first responses from students interested in KYR,” Carttar said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ It just made us really happy to know that there were other people who were interested in doing the same thing, in working toward the same goals.”

According to Jimenez, the group, which currently consists of about 15 members, is now in the process of collaborating with attorneys and nonprofit organizations to receive training. They hope to help community members fill out government documents, such as FOIA requests to obtain one’s immigration file.

Trenco characterized the group as small but mighty, motivated by direct action and feedback from the community.

“We’re a relatively small group … but we all put so much work into it,” Trenco said. “[We were] talking to attorneys, and they [told us], ‘We’re so proud of you guys because we want to see more people, more college students become involved in this.’ I’m happy and hopeful for the future. We can help a lot of people.”

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