American Civil Liberties Union stopped at ELAC to gain petition signatures

STAND UNITED—Hector Villagra speaks to a reporter about the Estamos Unidos movement, which made a stop at ELAC on its cross-country college tour. CN/ Joseph Recinos

Updated Wednesday 4:23 p.m.

By Erik Luna

Due to the controversy of discriminatory laws, the American Civil Liberties Union’s cross-country caravan “Estamos Unidos” stopped at East Los Angeles College Monday afternoon to recruit students against laws such as SB 1070.

The ACLU started to plan for the caravan in mid-March with stops in Santa Ana and San Diego. The caravan will then travel to neighboring state Arizona, on to Texas and end in South Carolina.

Executive Director of ACLU Southern California Hector Villagra emphasized the importance of having students aware of the current situation with the anti-immigration laws certain states are trying to pass. “We wanted to make sure there was a stop in Los Angeles and we wanted somewhere that would be populated at this time of day (noon),” Villagra said about ELAC being a part of the caravan stop.

Volunteers for the ACLU went around asking students to sign a petition to both thank the government for opposing laws like SB 1070, but also to criticize the government for the high number of deportations. “It was passed in Arizona and it gives (police) officers authority to stop someone and if they suspect they are undocumented, they can ask them for their papers,” Villagra said about SB 1070.

Director of Policy Advocacy Clarissa Woo manned the information booths and got more students to sign the petitions. “We want everyone that[sic] comes to this school to be informed and be willing to support this cause, regardless of your race,” said Woo.

After a few songs were played by “Las Cafeteras,” a Chicano roots band from Los Angeles, Villagra went up to address the students who had gathered around to hear the band.

“‘Estamos Unidos.’ We are united. We have to be unified to let the government know that we are opposed to it. We have to be unified to let the other states know, if the Supreme Court rules that 1070 is lawful, that we are united against it,” Villagra said. Keylinne Alonso, an AB-540 student at ELAC and a member of the on-campus club Students for Equal Rights, was introduced to tell the crowd a few words. “Thanks to AB 130 and AB 131 undocumented students are getting a better chance at getting an education,” Alonso said.

AB 130 and 131 are what make up the California Dream Act and states that undocumented students can apply for scholarships (130) and allows them to also apply to receive financial aid (131). Along with Alonso was Marcos Bautista, another AB-540 student. “I lived 22 years being undocumented and I finally got my residentship. I have support from my club and by M.E.S.A and I’m fully supported by ELAC,” Bautista said quickly as he was late for his class.

Villagra also stated that anti-immigrant laws are unconstitutional and rob people of basic dignity. “That’s why we are uniting. We can’t remain silent any longer, (while) politicians around the country are trying to make their name by promoting anti-immigrant laws,” Villagra said.

“They think that we will remain silent, we have to let them know that, that’s wrong. That we will be together and that we will be loud–that’s why we are united,” he continued.

Villagra also told everyone that they could follow the caravan on Twitter, as well on Facebook. “We think it’s going to be critical, in terms of the success of the campaign,” Villagra said about the use of social media in the caravan. “The people we are targeting are younger people, who make regular use of social media. We hope by reaching that group, they can talk to their parents, their aunts, uncles and they can get the word out,” he continued.

To follow the caravan visit:  www.facebook.com/miaclu and follow them on Twitter @miaclu.

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