"A New American" by Jeffrey Aviña
Updated: Mar 29
What does it mean to be a Migrant? A question that legislators don't ask enough and
what activists can not stop asking. Questions about immigration are a hotbed issue
thanks to the comments and position taken by this administration. These questions are
only becoming more and more important as time goes on. The Climate Crisis, local
gangs, corrupt governments, and prejudice and persecution are all factors that are
increasing the rate of people trying to enter the United States. There are many different
and unique factors that go into deciding to leave one's homeland, but that's not what I
want to talk about today.
Today, this country faces a crisis of the heart. It has been this administration's mission
to roll back Obama era legislation like Obamacare and DACA, but just as Trump spent
the last four years trying to undo the four before that; I spent the last week trying to
understand what people think about migrant workers.
I started by going to the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at Sonoma State
and spoke to the Chair of the department, Dr. Ronald Lopez. Lopez has lived in the
Santa Rosa community for 12 years now. He is involved with many organizations such
as the Graton Day Labor Center, KBBF, and the Latino democratic club 'Los Cien'. We spoke about how active migrant workers are in the surrounding area. Due to Sonoma
County being a primarily agricultural area, most of the work that is available to migrant
workers are jobs that require a lot of manual labor. We also spoke about the history of
migrant workers in this country from the Braceros Program that underpaid Mexican
workers during World War Two to the Green Revolution (1950- 1960s) which now made
it possible to have agricultural yields that the world had never seen before. What is left
is a growing need for more manual labor and a system that disadvantages a significant
part of the workforce, and is what we have today.
After my interview with Dr. Lopez, I talked with a student about their own personal
experiences. I spoke with one student from San Francisco who had family that are
undocumented about how he saw migrants in his life (I have chosen to leave out all
other names out of respect for the student's privacy and that of their family).
The first student told me about how much activism there was for migrant workers
working in the hospitality industry. It meant a lot to him to see that because his family
worked in hotels. We then spoke a bit longer about how both our lives had been
affected by growing up as a first-generation American in a very fast-changing country.
He said something that stuck with me when I asked what he thought about his identity
as an American citizen. "Most of my family are undocumented and the only ones who
arent are my brother and I. We are constantly under pressure to not be in engaged with
the law, to be civil around white people, not to stand out in a public are, just stuff like
that; we just have a lot of anxiety from it, I grew up an American with anxiety."
With the ending of DACA, a program meant to grant safety to a child that knows no
other place but the United States, this administration made their choice on what their
position was. Now, it's up to us. It is up to the rest of us to look out for one another. At
Sonoma State is an office on the bottom floor of the Library called the Dream Center.
Provide a safe space for undocumented students where they receive academic,
personal, and professional guidance in order to matriculate and graduate."