UCLA director of Labor Studies speaks about undocumented youth at City College
By Elena Stuart
Calling on undocumented students to speak up against the aggressive immigration laws from the President’s administration, educator Kent Wong also called on City College students and officials to become allies.
Kent Wong, director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) labor center presented a publication “Immigrant Youth in the Silicon Valley: Together We Rise,” hosted at City College’s Ocean campus on Feb. 28, which attracted some 30 people.
The publication comprised of census data and interviews, reveals undocumented immigrants to be a substantial portion of the populace and labor force in Silicon Valley.
Though President Donald Trump and Wong have different views on immigration policies, both agree the country’s immigration system is outdated and broken.
“The last immigration reform was 31years ago,” Wong said.
And in his address to congress on March 1 Trump insisted: “The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers.”
Silicon Valley’s undocumented youth are concentrated in low-wage jobs and have the lowest rate of education among residents.
“This country of tremendous wealth punishes innocent people who had no choice in the matter,” Wong said.
Comprising 14 percent of the youth in the region, the undocumented youth are a diverse hub in the community. The undocumented youth are proud and courageous and should not be ashamed, according to Wong.
“The government should be ashamed for how they have treated young people whose home has always been the United States,” Wong said.
The president spoke of Jamiel Shaw Jr.,17, who was “viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.”
Wong detailed experiences of several undocumented youths who were separated from their families by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Using City College alum Steve Li as an example, Li was held in an Arizona deportation center for 6o days after ICE raided his home and deported his parents.
“These centers are private institutions, and like private prisons generate income by detaining individuals,” Wong said.
Wong voiced his appreciation to Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement (VIDA) coordinator Alejandro Jimenez.
“You are so lucky to have Alejandro here,” Wong said. “He was instrumental in putting together the program last summer to publish the report on immigrant youth in Silicon Valley.”
Besides Wong, speakers Mario De Leon and Diego Sepulveda, who assisted the creation of the publication and Dream Summer alums, relayed their experiences as undocumented students in California.
Sepulveda described the Dream Summer Program, an “Intersectional, cross-racial movement” welcoming immigrants from all over the world to develop comprehensive and strategic initiatives and empower immigrant youth.
“Education is not meant to climb up the social ladder, but to support the underprivileged,” De Leon said in his speech. “People will start to listen when we start speaking up.”
“As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight,” President Trump said. “We must support the victims of crime.”
The president announced a new office to be created by the Department of Homeland Security called “VOICE, Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement”on March 1.
Jimenez, De Leon and Sepulveda were “up against immense odds, yet they succeeded, graduated, and became activists” which gives Wong hope. “We need hope,” Wong said. “These are challenging times.”
Wong’s voice grew louder as he spoke about the way the government handles the undocumented youth.
“We as a country are better than that,” Wong said.“Do the right thing. Stand up against racism and injustice.”