“We The People:” US Through the Undocumented Student Perspective
Santa Monica College’s Associated Students sponsored the 7th Annual Public Policy Institute Symposium on May 10, Wednesday night. With several students left standing in the back or sitting on the floor, the crowded event took place in SMC’s Cayton Center.
Founded in 2010, SMC’s Public Policy Institute takes each annual symposium as an opportunity to assess the current most pressing policy issues and questions with the students of SMC. The motto is, “Liberty and justice for all.”
The night’s event centered around the effects of the Trump Administration’s current policies and—most importantly—how students can remain involved in the protection of liberty and justice for all. The idea of guardianship in regards to California’s political weight and presence in the United States is important when considering how to influence public policy. In spirit of protecting justice, the event was labeled “Californians as Guardians of the Galaxy in a Post-Truth Era.”
Four SMC students, Maya Valree, Santiago Guerrero, Nehasi Lee and Wallberto Lozano, produced a short documentary titled, “We the People.” The idea was to target students who would be heavily impacted during Trump’s presidency and gain insight on the US from their perspectives. While some of the student featured remained anonymous, others shared their stories in the limelight.
Students addressed the alienation and fear following Trump’s election. One anonymous student discussed the travel ban and its implications towards the Muslim community, while another anonymous student voiced the inhumanity in tearing families apart through deportation. “Above citizenship is humanity,” stated the student. As an undocumented student protected under DACA, another anonymous student revealed the fear accompanied with the reality that Trump holds the power to cease DACA, and therefore disrupt much of her life.
In response to the showing of “We the People,” the filmmakers and a few of the students featured in the documentary held a discussion panel. The reasons for being involved in the project ranged from a desire to get involved with the powerful, inspiring effects of empathetic storytelling. The crowd cheered on Miguel Cabellero as he revealed the struggle in going to places as undocumented immigrants because they’re afraid. In regards to what policy makers could absorb from watching the short documentary, he stated, “I just want them to know that we are all human beings and we want to live life like anyone.”
As “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the panelists expressed an importance in the power of speech. If the United States is her galaxy, panelist and featured student Sabrina Howard expresses her guardianship through speaking out about issues she feels passionately about. However, the short documentary stressed that one of the most important things anyone can do as an act of speaking up is vote. A clip from the documentary warned the audience, “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”