Our undocumented community has been under attack for years and history repeats itself, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to massive ICE raids in 2018. In February, nearly 300 Bay Area residents were arrested by ICE in just one week. On February 6, the UC Berkeley Student Cooperatives sent out an email about an incident in which an individual came knocking on the door of one of the student co-ops, impersonating a delivery person.
The person kept trying to get into the unit, but the students denied them permission.
Based on what students were able to observe, we can safely suspect that this individual may have been working for ICE. We’ve seen ice raids in the East Bay and throughout California, and yet the university says nothing about how it plans to protect our undocumented students and their families.
So students – documented and undocumented students joining together — have taken matters into our own hands. As the government prepares more ICE raids, we must be prepared to protect our community.
On March 8th, Casa Joaquin had a “Know Your Rights” workshop where we made space to talk about the scary reality faced by our undocumented students. Aside from just learning our rights, we talked about what more we could do, which led to a training to become legal observers. During the training, folks asked very specific hypothetical questions regarding what to do if ICE came knocking on our doors at Casa.
Towards the end of our training we acted out possible scenarios and learned how our roles as legal observers would look in practice. These conversations can feel very sensitive since most of us have been affected in some way, but as a community we respectfully created a safe space. As we acted out these scenarios and asked these “what if” questions, I knew we’d be ready in case of ICE raids.
On March 16, 2018 an ICE raid struck a housing complex in South Berkeley, a few blocks away from Casa, with agents arresting and detaining three, according to news reports. Nearly two months have passed since the raid and we have yet to receive any emails from campus administration about the situation, which is typical. The day we heard the news, we quickly checked in with each other and provided the rapid response number in case any of us saw more ICE raids or other activity. Clearly, it’s up to us to protect each other.
Thankfully, UC Berkeley students have been organizing and fighting for all 11 million undocumented folks. RISE, Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, a student-led political organization, has fought for a safe space for the immigrant community and successfully continues to bring the community together and keep families – not just those of undocumented students — from being torn apart.
With that being said, it’s an honor to see Casistas put their heart into this organization! I can confidently say that Casa is filled with folks who aren’t just fighting for themselves to survive on campus but fighting for liberation of all our oppressed communities. In 1970, only 150 Chicanx students attended UC Berkeley, and a group of those students founded Casa Joaquin. Over the years, Casa has shifted from a Chicano co-op to a People of Color house. We have fought for our space and continue to beat the odds when we walk on a campus like Berkeley, but it’s still an ongoing fight.
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The author is a UC Berkeley student and resident of Casa Joaquin Murrieta who has asked to remain anonymous.