In light of Cinco De Mayo, BC hosted a panel of two lawyers that discussed human rights and immigration. BC’s Office of Equity and Pluralism as well as the Diversity Caucus and the Bellevue College Latino Employee Association organized the panel. Speaking at the event were two local attorneys, Vito de la Cruz and Glenda Aldana.
Aldana, a Guatemalan immigrant, is a Yale Law graduate who contributed to a Latina Student support fund at Harvard called “La Vida.” She was recognized by MALDEF, a Latino civil rights group, for her work in 2011 with their 2010 to 2011 MALDEF law school scholarship. She focuses her work on immigrants’ rights and international human rights issues.
Cruz, who is also a Yale graduate, comes from southern Texas where his parents were migrant farm workers throughout his childhood. Doing largely civil rights and immigration work, Cruz has devoted his career to helping others and fighting for the underrepresented.
After speaking of their own credentials and the work they have done in the migrant community, both guests began to speak about the situations many of these immigrants come from and the issues that they face when they come to the country.
“In some states with stricter immigration laws, families that have mixed legal status live in fear of being separated,” explained Cruz, “Families with members who are here illegally fear reaching out to law enforcement and as a result, many cases of abuse and other domestic crimes are often unreported.”
Children crossing the border has become a growing problem for the country, however, according to Cruz and Aldana, it is not a problem exclusive to America. “Children from Mexico and all across South America flee dangerous situations seeking asylum,” said Aldana.
“These children that do come to America often go unrepresented in court, forced to argue the American immigration law in a place that they do not know or understand and often fail to prove justifiable cases for asylum,” explained Aldana. Aldana is currently part of a class action lawsuit that hopes to grant all children who face deportation a legal representative under constitutional law.
“One of the most common cases made for stricter immigration laws is the jobs taken by workers, proposing that these jobs could be held by American citizens and contribute to unemployment in the country,” said Cruz.
At the end of the panel Cruz said, “We need to recognize the inherent humanity of these people.”
Aldana encouraged the students, saying “Be critical of what we hear and see in the media, and look at it with a lens of humanity.”