Editor’s Note: On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in U.S. cities for women’s marches, in conjunction with a major march in Washington, D.C., following Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. According to organizers, the marchers aim to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights.” UC Berkeley senior Angelica Vargas, who will speak at the San Francisco march, said she wants to put a face to undocumented immigrants. Vargas, a community educator with Educators for Fair Consideration, spoke with NAM’s Honora Montano.
Where are you from and how did you end up at UC Berkeley?
I was born in Juarez, Mexico, and came to the Central Valley with my parents when I was one. Through a lot of support from community, I made it to college. I applied through the California Dream Act and got financial aid… I also became DACAmented.
The Dream Act [a state law that allows undocumented immigrants in California to apply for scholarships] and DACA [an executive action that grants certain undocumented immigrants temporary protection from deportation and access to a work permit] were implemented right when I needed them, in 2012 during my senior year of high school, thanks to the work of other undocumented student leaders.
What do you hope attendees take away from Saturday’s march?
I really hope that people who are at the rally are not afraid to move forward and get involved with local organizations. I also hope that people are not afraid to call their politicians and representatives and ask them to move forward and make change.
What do you plan to speak about at the march?
I will be speaking about the diversity within the undocumented community. I want to show that we are different than how the media portrays us…to put a face to the undocumented immigrant issue. I hope folks leave knowing how diverse our undocumented population truly is. We are not one stereotype but come from different ethnicities, occupations and have different needs.
I’ll be co-speaking with a high school senior in San Francisco who is doing amazing work. She’s been pushing for the SF School Board to pass a resolution to make the district a sanctuary district. She does not have DACA, and is part of the generation of undocumented youth who are not eligible.
Dreamers like you have played a leadership role in the immigrant rights movement. What do you see as the role of young undocumented immigrants during the Trump presidency?
Now the future is uncertain, as there could be the elimination of DACA, which Trump has promised, and there could be other attacks on the undocumented community.
Moving forward, we want to make sure our communities are safe. The undocumented youth movement has been trying to adapt to whatever policies the U.S. government has placed on us, for the past 10 years or more. Now, Dreamers will have to address issues more broadly, to keep advocating for the rights of all immigrants and keep our community safe, including the rights of workers and during raids and deportation proceedings… We are a huge community and want to work together to help everyone.
Many groups in addition to the undocumented community feel threatened by the Trump presidency. How can different groups stand together in response to his policies?
Different communities have to and are showing up for each other. Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement addressed undocumented people in their campaign. And here on the UC Berkeley campus, [when] we were fighting for funds for our undocumented students, those who showed up to our protest were not just the undocumented students; we had folks from so many other communities. That’s the kind of allyship and support we need.
For example, I can’t just focus on being undocumented. I also need to focus on helping other communities who will be under attack, and just keep faith in the country.
How does that translate to the women’s march?
It’s hurtful to the entire message of the march if we are not being intersectional in practice, and including women of color, trans women, immigrant women. The movement has to become more intersectional… And the march isn’t just for women and people who identify as women, it’s for men too and anyone who wants to stand up for communities and for human rights.
Since Trump’s win, some immigrant communities have been retreating back into the shadows, whereas DACA seemed to help bring people out of the shadows. How can the immigrant rights movement take steps forward at a time of increased fear?
We need to not be afraid moving forward. The folks who spoke up and shared their stories about being undocumented for the very first time, in 2007, did not have DACA and they still achieved all the things that we have now. We are standing on the shoulders of giants. Moving forward, we have to work together, sharing our stories, being active and knowing that we’ve survived all these decades.
What steps can people take to support vulnerable communities?
Some steps forward are to join your local social justice organizations, sign petitions to stop deportations, and donate to immigrant law help centers. I also encourage people to support sanctuary resolutions like the one here in the San Francisco Unified School District.
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