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Friday, September 24, 2021

ASUCD Senate members opt out of meeting in solidarity with “A Day Without Immigrants”

NICHOLAS CHAN / AGGIE

Senators gathered informally to discuss how ASUCD can better support immigrant rights

In lieu of the regular weekly meeting, ASUCD Senate members held a resolution meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16 in solidarity with the “A Day Without Immigrants” movement. The alternative meeting was held in the Moss Room of the Memorial Union from 6 to 7 p.m and was attended by members of the public as well as the majority of ASUCD Senate members, excluding three unnamed Senate members who had signed the statement but were absent due to illness, interim Senator Michael Chan (who did not sign the statement but was briefly in attendance) and Senator Matt Yamaguchi (who did not sign and did not attend).

According to a statement issued by ASUCD on Thursday, the nationwide movement, which originated from the nonprofit organization Voces de la Frontera’s “A Day without Latinxs, Immigrants, and Refugees,” led to the cancellation of classes within UC Davis’ ethnic studies departments. Samantha Chiang, ASUCD senator and a third-year English major, directed the meeting for a resolution on how ASUCD could potentially support the campus’ immigrant community in light of President Trump’s immigration bans.

According to Chiang, the idea to call for the meeting was inspired by professor Robyn Rodriguez of the Asian American Studies Department, who cancelled class and encouraged her students to conduct research and get their organizations involved in the movement. During the meeting, concerns were raised regarding the co-opting of immigrant safe spaces as well as defining the members and scope of the movement.

“There are several issues in this movement,” Chiang said. “One, it doesn’t clearly delineate who we’re talking about per se. Two, there’s an issue of whether outliers can and should participate. We need to define who we are supporting, in terms of immigrants. It’s been very unclear from the organizers of the movement. I think the way our associated student body is set up, we would like this to be as intersectional as possible without still not detracting from the original purpose. We have to remember that this came originally from a Latinx and Chicano perspective in order to uplift those voices, but then it expanded into a movement for immigrants as a whole.”

Sarah Shemery, a fourth-year gender, sexuality and women’s studies major and the deputy director of the Office of Advocacy and Student Representation, voiced her opinion that the resolution should de-emphasize the economic value that immigrants bring to American society and instead underscore universal human rights.

“In regard to immigrants and refugees, I don’t want to hear [we support immigrants and refugees] because XYZ,” Shemery said. “I want to hear ‘because they are human.’ [We support immigrants and refugees] not because of what they economically contribute but because they are human beings too.”

A general consensus was reached that ASUCD should work directly with on campus community-based organizations to establish the vocabulary to be used in the public resolution statement. Sara Williams, ASUCD external affairs commission chairperson and a fourth-year history and political science double major, spoke on additional services that ASUCD could provide.

“It’s important that the 20 of us in here educate ourselves, but there are also 27,000 undergraduates who need to know these things,” Williams said. “If we could get law students to come on campus and hold ‘Know Your Rights’ workshops, these are things that are open to the public but forums that we could provide. In this way we could reach out to community organizations to ask if this would be something they’re interested in co-hosting, or something they want to host themselves and have us help out.”

To resolve these issues, the meeting concluded by establishing an immigrant community outreach agenda for the following week, during which members of the Senate and the public will reach out to community organizations on behalf of ASUCD, asking specifically if there is anything ASUCD can do to help immigrant, refugee and undocumented students.

Organizations planned to be contacted in the resolution include the departments located within Hart Hall, the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, Asian Pacific Islander  organizations, Filipino American groups, the International Student Association, Middle East/South Asia Studies, the Student Recruitment and Retention Center and Black Family Week.
Written by: Kaitlyn Cheung — campus@theaggie.org

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