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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Working Towards Our Rights: Blue Group shares personal stories

Western’s Blue Group shared their experiences of being undocumented through personal stories in an event Sunday, May 7, in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room.

Blue Group is a club for undocumented Western students and allies. Its mission is to provide undocumented students with a safe space to find resources and services, meet other undocumented students and build a sense of community.

“[Blue Group] was created so there was an undocumented community present on this campus, because there are a lot of us and we go completely unrecognized,” Blue Group President Victoria Matey said in a video played at the event. “Blue Group is one of the most active clubs that I know of. We are consistently outdoing ourselves to make sure our greater community is safe.”

Recently, Blue Group has worked to make Bellingham become a sanctuary city–a city that does not participate in federal efforts to enforce immigration law.

“It was really hard to be okay with your family leaving to go to work, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to see them again.”

Jenifer Becerril Pacheco, Blue Group member

The Bellingham City Council ordinance concerning immigration status in February has been criticized by community groups, including Blue Group, that feel it doesn’t go far enough.  Community to Community, an advocacy group, said the ordinance doesn’t actually protect undocumented people.

“The people have been giving sanctuary a definition and that’s very important,” Matey said in the video. “To me it means having a space of protection for not only the undocumented community, but also so many other people to have a space [where] they know they aren’t going to be racially profiled or risk getting deported.”

Blue Group works in collaboration with multiple organizations and activists with the same goal, such as Community to Community, and Maru Mora, a community organizer and founder of Latino Advocacy, which provides consulting for nonprofits on racial justice and immigrant rights.

“She’s [Mora] the person standing with the megaphone, she’s the person there at the rally, she’s the person camping outside the detention centers, she’s the person talking to media all over the country,” Blue Group member José Carrillo said. “She is known nationally and internationally for her efforts and really dedicates her whole life to helping our community.”

Mora was the keynote speaker and shared her thoughts and experiences on being undocumented in the current political climate.  

“In the past, I would say to our undocumented community, ‘We are in crisis,’” Mora said. “This year, this is not a crisis. This is a war. War has been declared against us by this fascist regime.”

But even if undocumented people were granted citizenship by the government, Mora believes it would not be enough to break the stereotypes and treatment of undocumented citizens.

“How would it look if we had a piece of paper? Would that be enough? Would that guarantee we are respected and we have dignity in our lives?” Mora asked the audience. “Not necessarily, because it goes beyond a piece of paper.”

Olga Prado, vice president of Blue Group, shared a poem by activist Assata Shakur expressing one’s duty to fight for freedom. She also shared her personal experience.

“I found that even with all the protection I currently have, and that’s a privilege, I won’t find, or we [undocumented citizens] won’t find liberation in DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], in marriage, in citizenship or any of that,” Prado said. “We won’t find our liberation until we are all free, and until there are no more borders, and until our people are not criminalized anymore, and until our children have safe water to drink and until this earth is well taken care of.”

Other members of Blue Group shared their personal experiences of crossing the border, being separated from their families and living in constant fear of themselves or family members being deported.

“It was really hard to be okay with your family leaving to go to work, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to see them again,” Blue Group member Jenifer Becerril Pacheco said as she reflected on the uncertainly she experienced in her life.

Many of the speakers were overcome with emotions while telling their extremely intimate experiences.

The event was timed to meet marchers from the Farm Workers Dignity March at Maritime Park in Bellingham. Marchers began walking around 7 a.m. from Lynden, walking nearly 18 miles to Bellingham. Audience members were asked to join in welcoming the marchers as they reached the finish line.

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