The university’s Social Work Student Association led a march in Reedley on Nov. 18, 2017, where more than 50 people called for immigration reform. (Daniel Avalos/The Collegian)

Students take to the street to demand immigration reform

Fresno State students are holding their government accountable for reforming the country’s immigration system.

The university’s Social Work Student Association (SWSA) led a march in Reedley on Saturday, where more than 50 people called for immigration reform that includes permanent legal status for undocumented students, Central American families who have lived in the country under Temporary Protected Status.

The march was the latest in a series of “Defend the Dream,” a campaign going all over the Central San Joaquin Valley, said Rosa Salmeron, co-organizer and treasurer of SWSA. Stops have already included Visalia, Madera, Merced and Modesto. Porterville and Fresno are to come.

The goal, Salmeron said, is not just to defend the undocumented students, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” but now also families with Temporary Protected Status, which the government said it is doing away with.

“This is the highest turnout that we’ve had,” Salmeron said of Saturday’s protest. “We love that the kids took charge of the march and the chanting, and that was very empowering for us because they are the future, and they are being empowered and involved.”

The group marched down Manning Avenue, expressing to vehicle traffic and passersby that immigrants living in the country without legal status are “not shadows, they are people, people, people.” And although the group was not large, it seemed larger with the support it got from those who observed.

“All the people that help, honk at us. All the people that yell at us and scream and are shouting their approval and stuff like that, they are also walking with us and were the voices of millions of people,” said Janneth Rodriguez, a student at California State University, Stanislaus.

She added, “Although our numbers might be small, I think that our energy and our message is very, very loud.”

Her parents came from Ontario, a city east of Los Angeles, to support the group.

Members of a SWSA devoted hours to plan the march, even recruiting interested community members from an adult school, said Adriana Alderete, co-organizer and officer of operations for the group.

Liliana Sandoval, who studied social work at Fresno State and lives in Reedley, heard about the march on Facebook and through others. She said the march was a reminder of the work still left to do in reforming the country’s immigration system.