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By Kent Wong

Director, UCLA Labor Center

The UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC), in partnership with Netflix employees and DREAMer’s Roadmap (a program to support undocumented student access to higher education), sponsored a hackathon at the Netflix campus in Silicon Valley, August 10–12, 2018. Through a generous gift from Netflix employees, 40 immigrant youth from across the country spent three days developing innovative online resources and apps to support the rights and needs of immigrants and to address the increasingly hostile policies threatening immigrant communities. The youth were joined by about 20 Netflix and other tech company employees, who served as mentors and coaches throughout the three days.

Silicon Valley is an internationally known center for technology and innovation and serves as a major hub of economic growth and development. What is less known, however, is that tech is an industry that is reliant on immigrant labor. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and tech engineers are immigrants. In addition, immigrant workers comprise the main workforce who clean the offices, maintain the grounds, provide security, prepare the food, take care of tech employees’ children and elderly relatives, and staff the other service sector jobs that support the tech companies.

Many Silicon Valley companies have invested resources to advocate for immigrant rights and to oppose the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. Silicon Valley companies are also sensitive to their lack of Latino and African American employees, and many are seeking to expand recruitment efforts to underrepresented communities. The August hackathon was a great step forward in advancing a partnership between the tech world and immigrant communities.

This was the second hackathon sponsored by the UCLA DRC. In September 2017, a hackathon was held at CodeSmith in Venice, California, in partnership with UndocuMedia (an immigrant youth media company), FWD.us (an immigrant rights organization founded within the tech community) and others.

In 2016, the DRC also published a breakthrough research report, Immigrant Youth in the Silicon Valley: Together We Rise, which explores the obstacles young immigrants face when trying to access fair wages, housing and higher education in the area.

For the past three years, the DRC has sponsored the Dream Summer program in the Silicon Valley, placing immigrant youth in internships with education, immigrant rights, and social justice organizations in the area. Dream Summer fellows organized a successful conference at San Jose City College in August 2016 to promote educational access for immigrant students. In August 2017, Dream Summer fellows held a conference at the Univision headquarters in San Jose to address employment opportunities for immigrant youth.

The employee-sponsored Netflix hackathon was an inspiring and exciting event. On September 10, Netflix will host a reception to report on the hackathon to their employees, share a video with highlights and discuss next steps. Plans are already underway to hold another hackathon for immigrant youth in 2019.

 

Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center, where he teaches courses in labor studies and Asian American studies. He previously served as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union. He was the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and of the United Association for Labor Education and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

By George Chacon

Dream Resource Center Project Manager, UCLA Labor Center

When people are allowed to tell their own stories, they can provide insight into and connection with groups of people we may not ordinarily interact with. But when other people tell those stories, they can be used to paint a negative and unfair picture. No one has done this more, and with more disregard for facts and hatred toward the immigrant community, than Donald Trump. Not a week goes by where he does not say something inflammatory about immigrants, and his supporters echo those stories. Thankfully, working for the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC) has provided me with opportunities to hear positive stories and experiences from my coworkers and community partners. Some of these stories are featured in the DRC’s Undocumented Stories exhibit, hosted by the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach.

MOLAA will be showcasing Undocumented Stories, a multimedia exhibit that lifts up the personal stories and experiences of immigrant youth, from August 4 to September 9. Undocumented Stories was curated by UCLA students, staff from the UCLA Labor Center and the DRC, and SolArt Media & Design. It includes personal stories, video, and photographs of unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth who built a movement to change US policies on access to higher education, immigration, and deportation. The exhibit aims to humanize the undocumented immigrant experience, empower the immigrant community, and incite critical conversations about the future of US immigration law and policy. Undocumented Stories has traveled to various locations around the country, including Washington, DC, and Boston through a partnership with the National Education Association.

The exhibit features the stories of people like Set Rongkilyo, who does communications for the ICE Out of LA coalition. Set and his family migrated to the United States with the hope of naturalizing their status through an employer. Unfortunately, Set’s family could not fulfill the extensive requirements, became undocumented, and were eventually separated. Set’s father had to return to the Philippines to care for his sick mother and will have great difficulty ever returning to the United States because of his undocumented status.

Then there’s Diego Sepulveda, currently the director of the DRC. I met Diego in 2009 when I was an undergraduate student at UCLA, and I remember how fearless and persistent he was as an undocumented student. The exhibit chronicles his experience as a transfer student attending UCLA and his advocacy efforts in LGBTQ and environmental issues.

My experience working at the DRC and with MOLAA has strengthened my commitment to the movement to ensure that all immigrants are treated with respect and humanity. By uplifting the stories and leadership of immigrants in these unfortunate times, the Undocumented Stories exhibit functions as a necessary and vital counter to the falsehoods coming out of the White House.

 

George Chacon is the Immigrant Justice Project Manager at the Dream Resource Center, where he guides immigrant leaders in developing rapid response networks for immigrant communities as they face increased threats of detention and deportation. He graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a BA in international development studies and a minor in education studies. He is an LA native and has worked on issues such as workforce development, health and wellness, and college readiness.

By Abel Valenzuela Jr.

Professor and Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

The increased ICE raids, daily attacks on immigrants, children separated from their parents at the border, and a host of other mean-spirited, chaotic, and destructive directives from the White House often leave me feeling numb and helpless. Then I get angry, I remind myself that elections matter, and I double down on the work I do at UCLA. The impact of the research we undertake at UCLA proves that facts, data, and empiricism matter in our search for solutions to the most vexing problems that confront us. At UCLA, we nurture tomorrow’s leaders, who draw on their UCLA experience and training to better our country and our world. I am proud and inspired to teach, work, and research alongside some of the best and brightest that UCLA has to offer.

On June 18th, the Dream Resource Center launched the 8th annual national Dream Summer Program, showcasing the power of young immigrants and their allies coming together to grow and sustain the national immigrant youth movement. More than 600 Dream Summer alumni are working hard to build an intersectional immigrant rights movement, and many are leading national organizations. These leaders employ sophisticated social media tools, power mapping, network building with labor and faith-based organizations, storytelling, and cultural interventions and performance to push an agenda of immigrant inclusivity beyond just “dreamers” — to include undocumented families, new arrivals, and the working poor.

Last week’s opening retreat convened 60 participants to workshop, caucus, and network with Dream Summer alumni and immigrant rights leaders, activists, and workers. Presentations by alumni, national leaders, and elected officials provided first-hand insights into the legislative process, political landscape, and the inner workings of the electoral process. Interns participated in workshops on wellness and self-care, which is vital in an era of increased hostility toward immigrants, uncertainty, and political unpredictability. Other workshops focused on the deconstruction of mass incarceration and detention/deportation, gender and reproductive justice, and freedom cities that draw on the principles of sanctuary to ensure safe geographic spaces. Participants learned about community organizing, social justice research, legal advocacy and access, and social and digital media organizing. Leadership training also included job skills like public speaking, networking for introverts, cover letter writing and resume building, event planning, and strategic communications.

Following this retreat, participants disbursed to their respective community-based organizations and labor unions to begin their hands-on training on issues that directly impact immigrant communities.

It is both historic and fitting that UCLA hosts this summer fellowship program, and it reflects well on our unique and historical relationship to immigrant and undocumented students. We are, after all in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest concentration of immigrants in the country. UCLA was also home to Tam Tran and Cynthia Felix, champions of undocumented students in higher education, whose lives where tragically cut short in an automobile accident. They demonstrated the impact of engaging with public and elected officials, pushing a broader and more inclusive immigrant rights narrative, and empowering other young immigrants to collectively organize for social change.

The Dream Summer Program provides me with a great deal of hope and excitement, witnessing young immigrants challenging and changing our country for the better.

 

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is Professor of Urban Planning and Chicana/o Studies, Director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Immigration Policy. Professor Valenzuela is one of the leading national experts on day labor and has published numerous articles and technical reports on the subject. His research interests include precarious labor markets, worker centers, immigrant workers, and Los Angeles. His academic base is urban sociology, planning, and labor studies.