As April has turned to May, thus has concluded Undocu-Month at Western Washington University, leaving those involved to reflect upon its success.
This year was the second Undocu-Month held at Western after being formerly known as Undocu-Week. This was also the first celebration since the Blue Resource Center became established as a physical and fully-funded center within the Multicultural Center earlier this year.
Andy Graves, a member of the BRC, said one of the big goals of the BRC since starting up is to get connected with the community and campus resources, which they made great efforts toward with the five main events of Undocu-Month.
These events included the Undocu-Solidarity Fair, Undocu-Ally Training, Dropping the “I” seminar, an Undocu-Joy Celebration and an Undocu-Queer Intersectionality presentation in collaboration with LGBTQ+ Western’s Gaypril celebrations.
According to the Blue Group’s mission statement, events like these serve to help in “[providing] a safe space for all undocumented, mixed-status identifying students and allies to better enhance their college experience.”
Especially amid recent events such as Border Patrol’s presence at WWU’s Career Fair last quarter, Graves said that there has been a breach of trust between undocumented and mixed-status individuals and campus that is in need of remedy.
“When something like this happens, it only weakens the relationship,” he said.
Graves said that this disconnect is nothing new, and a lack of communication on the university’s part has been felt by students for some time now.
For the BRC and other groups, combating this increasingly strained relationship means not only educating students and staff but emphasizing Undocu-Joy.
“People go through a lot when going through life as undocumented, going through life trying to get citizenship status, going through life as a DACA recipient. There's a lot of struggles,” Graves said. “So the point of Undocu-Joy is to recognize the flip side of all those struggles.”
Eduardo Diaz-Ceballos, social media manager for Western’s Blue Group, said Undocu-Joy shows there is beauty in being undocumented.
“It's meant to uplift people who have migrated to the U.S. and previously experienced struggles but are now opening themselves up to new opportunities and new joys in life,” he said.
Australia Tobon, a member of grassroots organization Community to Community and Bellingham’s immigration advisory board, relates Undocu-Joy to the Spanish phrase “vivir bien,” or live well, which she says serves as a reminder of humanity, aspirations and our strengths.
“I think language like that is very important,” Tobon said. “I think it's also kind of like resistance to all the negative light that's put on undocumented people.”
This spirit of Undocu-Joy is not limited to the month of April, just as being an ally doesn’t end with April’s Undocu-Month celebrations. There are many ways to contribute when it comes to the support of undocumented and mixed-status community members.
Graves said one of the biggest ways a person can work towards carrying out allyship beyond Undocu-Month is to “seek to be educated.”
Giving undocumented and mixed-status individuals a platform, being informed on language — such as the harm caused by terms like “illegal” —and actively searching out information about your own community and beyond are great ways to take part in this education.
Allies are vital to the process of fighting for the rights of those who are undocumented, Diaz-Ceballos said.
Through this education, along with networking, voting and even something as simple as stepping out in your community with the intention to help, impact can be made.
The Blue Resource Center recommends those in the Bellingham community help by participating in Immigrant Resources and Immediate Support’s Mother’s Day Fundraiser. Donations will be accepted through May 14 to help support 35 local immigrant families.
“It all starts with where your neighborhood is, and who are your neighbors,” Tobon said.
Morgan Merriam (she/her) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year journalism/public relations major. Outside of reporting on the people of Western, Morgan enjoys jewelry making, hiking, and going to concerts. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.