To be a Dreamer: Art expo allows for deeper look into immigration issue

By Keith Riva | Staff Writer |

Undocumented students at California State University, San Bernardino are taking a new approach to fighting stereotypes, misrepresentations, and legality.

President Donald Trump’s presidential promise to better enforce immigration laws on those in the United States illegally often brings fear. In a combative effort, the response from undocumented students and community members fight back, but not with violence.

CSUSB professor Liliana Conlisk-Gallegos, along with students from her Communication 343 class, put on an art expo where undocumented individuals could express themselves through art on Tuesday, Mar. 7.

Offered at the event were platforms such as canvas, newspaper, and an open mic. Through these mediums, students and community members were invited to be open and share their story in a safe space.

In terms of a turnout, there were in the neighborhood of one hundred people that came through the doors. Being the first of its kind, Gallegos expressed the need for more events on campus geared towards helping undocumented individuals, especially given modern context.

Urgency is a main part of the message as well. Attendee Loydie Burmah shared her thoughts on the expo.

“With an event like this, I’d never been to it. I think it’s very unique, especially because it’s using art as healing. So I think that’s a very interesting information to build this event on,” said Burmah.

When asked about the necessity of more events, as Conlisk-Gallegos also commented on, a coordinator from the Dreamers Resource Center who identified herself as Maria, provided her take.

“Yes,” she said, “especially now, you know, with the times being. I feel like these type of events show our students that they’re not alone.”

In Maria’s case, she stated right away that she identifies as an undocumented person and doesn’t wish to hide that. Instead, she uses that to share her story in an attempt to encourage other students who may be in a similar situation.

She continued to reinforce her belief that confidence is the key for undocumented students and individuals to be heard and be comfortable in their own skin.

“I’ve always received backlash because I’m very open about my status, even on social media I don’t mind sharing who I am and my story. I’ve had people on social media create reports to immigration enforcement like ‘oh, go get her!’”

Professor Juan Delgado, a professor and poet who works on campus at CSUSB, detailed what it’s like to see students suffer on another level this quarter. He ties together not just the immigration scene, but also the student life through the eyes of impoverished students who may not have a place to stay at night.

“I think it’s important that we support our students, and we’re about our students. We wouldn’t have a university if we didn’t have students. And I think it befalls on us when there are students in need if we can all help out,” said Delgado.

Working in the English department, Delgado also talked about having to come face to face with the reality that on top of racial issues and divides that students deal with, there is also a good chance that there are homeless or food challenged students in his classes.

“One out of ten Cal State students [are] food challenged or homeless,” Delgado continued, “when you go into a classroom of twenty and two students might be homeless or food challenged. That’s a staggering thing.”

While harboring the harsh realities that are coming to students in the San Bernardino area sooner or later is one option, there seems to be no giving up from their point of view.

Student Aidee Lambaren talked about what it was like to attend the art expo.

“I really do like drawing, I like artwork, so I think that this kind of event helps me embrace all of that,” said Lambaren.

Lambaren went on to say that she heard about the event through her connection with Conlisk-Gallegos. After participating in one of her courses, Lambaren stayed in touch and heard through the grapevine.

Coming back to Juan Delgado, he responded to the question of how he feels ethics plays a role in what continues to unfold in the United States.

“I think that’s a beautiful question about legality, ethics, and morality. And I think some of the churches are way ahead in that they understand that ethics and morality does not have borders….does your ethics stop on a plane when you cross a border? No.”

Conlisk-Gallegos and her current journalism students have a gala in mind during the month of June where they will host a silent auction for artwork created at the expo and submitted accordingly.

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