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Fear is fueling students to join progressive political movements

Shocked by deportations, students look for answers and take action

Stephanie Hak

Stephanie Hak

Chrystina Schwartz, Video Editor

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A surge in immigration raids throughout California, especially in cities like Los Angeles, has many Long Beach residents politically involved for the first time.

A deep far-left leaning political wave of resistance to immigration sweeps has resulted in large protests in downtown Los Angeles and other major cities, but has also created a flurry of people joining political groups and grassroots coalitions.

Cal State Long Beach College Democrats say they have noticed that after the election, a significant number of new people attended meetings and engaged in discussions. Gabriel Montoya, Vice President of the CSULB College Democrats, describes many students just looking for basic answers about the political process.

“I think many students were very, very surprised by [Donald] Trump’s victory and are looking for answers as to how this happened and what’s going on,” Montoya said.

Montoya is a senior economics and sociology double major and was recently elected to Vice President of CSULB College Democrats. He reflected on his earlier days in the organization, attending meetings where there were only 10 or so people. Now, he said there can be up to 40 students attending meetings.

Jeanette Ramirez, a senior environmental science and policy major is the Treasurer of CSULB College Democrats.

“We’re really working on teaching people the basics of the political process, like who their representatives are and what their district is,” Ramirez said. “I was so surprised to meet people who had lived in the same area their whole life and had no idea who their representatives [are] or knew very little about them.”

College Democrats are focusing their efforts on educating students on how to engage in politics. On Mar. 13 they encouraged people to call Rep. Alan Lowenthal for his bipartisan Resolution to protect public lands from privatization. On their Facebook page, they wrote step-by-step instructions on how to do so.

“We want people to let representatives know that we are listening and that these issues are important to us,” Ramirez said.

To date, it is still unclear whether Los Angeles is officially declared a “sanctuary city” due to the Mayor Garcetti’s vague explanation of the issue.

“Well, two points – one, we’ve never declared [Los Angeles] a sanctuary city,” Mayor Garcetti said in an interview with NPR on Jan.27, “I’m still not sure what one is. And a study of so-called ‘sanctuary city-counties’ shows lower unemployment, safer streets in areas that have welcomed immigrants, and we’re certainly a welcoming city.”

Homeland Security announced Feb. 13 that a total of 680 people were detained in roundups throughout the country, 161 of whom were taken from the Los Angeles area.

According to KPCC and the LA Times, The American Civil Liberties Union has asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop identifying themselves as police in order to get information on undocumented people.

La Raza Student Association at CSULB has been ramping up their actions as a catalyst for immigration awareness and political activism.

Student activist Sabrina Garcia-Diaz says she has seen a lot of people in the La Raza meetings after deportations happened just after Week of Welcome.

“Fear brought people to La Raza,” Diaz said.

Diaz says La Raza is informing students and undocumented folks all over Long Beach of their rights, which lawyers to contact about getting immigration cases pushed forward and influencing local representatives to officially establish Los Angeles as a sanctuary city.

“Since the ICE raids have been happening, we’ve been having a lot of undocumented people call lawyers for [help] and a lot of lawyers are starting to even turn in their own folks, which is f***** up,” Diaz said. “So we are showing undocumented people who the right people are to talk to.”

Diaz says La Raza has been handing out information cards written in Spanish with instructions in case one is undocumented and runs into ICE or police.

“Another thing we are doing is telling people in the community they have to keep their IDs or passports with them, just in case officers really start to raid at a checkpoint, it’s important to have that with you,” Diaz said.

Recently, La Raza hosted a Free the People March to send a message to Mayor Garcetti about officially recognizing Los Angeles as a sanctuary city, not just an “welcoming” city.

“The only we can really do right now is push the office and keep calling and calling,” Diaz said.

May Day Long Beach Coalition is a combination of several different grassroots organizations in Long Beach who work together to address issues such as immigration, police brutality and environmental injustice.

They have hosted several rallies but are not slowing down their efforts to fight incoming policies that they feel negatively affect minority communities in Long Beach.

Elliot Gonzalez, a vocal member of environmentalist organization called “Stop Fracking Long Beach” says that people are much more aware of issues than ever before, especially within their own political parties.

“People are going after status quo politicians on every level, while there is always pressure or increased pressure on the Republicans … there is a lot of calling-out of the Democrats, [because they] lead the way for Trump to take over. Democrats failed to appeal to a lot of voters, colleges students and working-class people. What we are seeing a progressive sweep happening at every level on the local levels,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales claims this trend isn’t exclusive to Long Beach or California but the whole country, progressive Democrats everywhere are mobilizing to make their voices heard in the party more than ever.

Recently many of what Gonzales describes as “Bernie-crats”, progressive democratic voters who were supporters of Bernie Sanders campaign, won a lot of local seats in the Assembly District Election Meetings, meaning they have more progressive delegates representing them in the party.

“I think assembling coalitions is the most important thing at this point. What we need is a great sense of solidarity coming from a grassroots level from every community… it’s time we all start sticking up for each other,” Gonzales said.

Maria Lopez, a Community Organizer for Housing Long Beach and has lead marches for the May Day Coalition. She describes a sense of unity from new and old members and dedication of the movement: people stay until the event has fully ended and signup sheets are flooded with signatures.

“People are interested, maybe because of the political regime. And it is, but it’s also times we are seeing that a lot of our communities that have won this battle and have won many battles [must] go back down and that’s something they are not cool with,” Lopez said.

However, looking forward, these activists describe a bleak future under the Trump Administration and admit they have their work cut out for them.

“I think every day is going to be an attack on our civil liberties and is going to be an assault on the public domain. We are going to see increased privatization on everything, we are going an attack on worker unions, LGBTQ rights and the immigrant communities like we are already seeing,” said Gonzales. “I think all the communities that already feel marginalized are going to feel an increase in marginalization.”

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