Since its creation, the United States has taken pride in equality, freedom, and the human quality of compassion. However, there has always been a shadow over the US’s “humanity.”Recently, the shadow over immigration grew, mostly due to President Trump, his administration, and their damaging policies. Immigration, though innate to America’s history, has become a widely spoken about topic, which has not gone unnoticed by American teenagers. At Berkeley High School (BHS), a group of students have decided to address the disparity between American ideals and their projection onto immigrants by creating the Immigrant Rights Club (IRC), which meets Wednesdays in room C126.
The IRC became an official BHS club this year. Co-Presidents and BHS juniors Lucila De Anda and Erick Barrera-Yoc connected over the desire to support immigrants. The mission of the IRC is to “support immigrant families by raising awareness of immigrants’ rights and [the] resources available to them, as well as by creating an environment that welcomes immigrants,” says De Anda. The organizations the club plans to work with in the near future — Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), Centro Légal de la Raza (CLR), and East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) — exemplify this goal. They all dedicate their work to organize and empower the immigrant community of the Bay Area through pro-bono legal support, policy advocacy, sanctuary, and more. The IRC intends to host fundraisers for these organizations, and is working on a list of volunteer opportunities for those interested. The board also plans to facilitate workshops for immigrants, with the goal of providing them with information about their rights and connecting them with resources.
For the club’s leaders, the issues of American immigration hit close to home. De Anda’s parents emigrated from Mexico before she was born. Barrera-Yoc, whose mother emigrated from Mexico, shared that he has to see his family and friends in difficult situations. “It’s on a more personal level for me, but I’m just trying to channel all that energy into this club.” Additionally, Vice-President Felix Mousigan’s great grandmother escaped the Armenian genocide as a refugee, and he says that “the stories of her survival have been passed through my family for generations.”
The club is worth much more than just a check on college applications. “Being Latino, or just being so close to the fear and difficulties faced by immigrants, it hits at a more personal level,” said Barrera-Yoc. He explained that he feels like he’s witnessing the suffering of “his people”, and feels, as a citizen, an obligation to stand up for them. Mousigan said that his grandmother “immigrated to the US to find a better life, and she felt safe here, like she’d found a home. I want all immigrants to feel safe in that way, and that’s not happening in this current political era.”
De Anda, Barrera-Yoc, and Mousigan all share a sense of responsibility to give immigrants the opportunities and freedoms they feel our country is supposed to stand for.