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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Submission: The story behind Blue Group’s book

Submission from Blue Group member Alex Martinez

November 8, 2016 was the date that changed the lives of many in the undocumented community throughout the United States. Many celebrated the victory of the man that promised to “Make America Great Again.” Meanwhile, others’ feelings were all over the place.

I remember this day as if it were yesterday. I did not intend to watch the election that night, but I was forced to due to an assignment for a journalism class that was about the election. My parents decided not to watch the election at all, and I don’t blame them for not doing so. The man that called Mexicans rapist, drug dealers, criminals, etc. had just been elected by the people to become the 45th president of the United States.

Western Washington University’s Blue Group, or BG as some of us call it, is a campus and state known club that supports undocumented students. For many of us, including myself, Blue Group has become more than just a club, it has become my community and second home of friends and family. Blue Group has given me the opportunity to share my story and identity as an undocumented Latino at Western.

In the last academic year, Blue Group members decided to came up with idea to fundraise through a book. The idea of this book was to submit our poems, writing, art and photos to share with others what Blue Group is really about, that we are more than just a club on campus. We wanted to share with the people that we are more than students, such as sons, daughters, artist, writers and much more through our book.

On Thursday, March 1, we had our book release, called “UndocuStudents: Our Untold Stories.” We wanted to proudly share our project and our stories, as an undocumented student in higher education. For many, these stories were shared for the very first time.

The event hosted a panel with two Western graduates, a former member of Blue Group and co-founder of the club, and current members. For some of them, it was the first time talking in a public setting about what it is like being undocumented.

Emmanuel Camarillo, adviser of the club, said that the idea was to create an opportunity to put together something that faculty and staff can use to educate themselves and their students about the stories of undocumented students.

During the panel, Maria Dimas, co-chair of the club, said some ways faculty and staff can support students are to acknowledge that we are human beings and that the institution was not made for us. Others said that one way is to stay away from the narrative that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients are only from Latin America and that not all undocumented students or people have DACA.

Jenifer Becerril Pacheco, one of the co-chair of the club, said her submission was a canvas painting. Becerril Pacheco’s painting is of a colorful but sad looking sky, a butterfly in the middle with the wings painted as the world and two hands trying to reach each and other hand trying to pull one of the hands.

Becerril Pacheco said that she did the painting last spring when the current Trump administration took over.

“[The painting was] a dedication to a lot of [those in] our community – the parents, the older family members that I don’t think get a lot of recognition – because when they look at the movement for undocumented people it’s usually [at] the youth that they’re looking at. So it was a dedication to them, that their work and sacrifices were worth it for us,” Becerril Pacheco said.

“I want them to learn [that] we’re built on joy too and that we should have the power to choose when we [share] our stories,” Becerril Pacheco said.

In my case, I wanted to show the reader that I am more than just an “illegal alien.” I am a student, a friend and a son. With my photo submission, I wanted to thank those who have been there with me in the ups and downs. With my photos, I wanted to thank them for all they have done for me.

My name is Alex Martinez and yes, I am an undocumented student at Western.

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