Immigration protests change course of CSUN class

Oscar Areliz

Many things in life never go as planned. The same could be said about classroom agendas.

The syllabus for Chicano/a Studies 364 states that it is a class designed to help students understand the history and global impact of migration, focusing mostly on modern issues.

Students were required to read a textbook and reader weekly.

But that all changed earlier in the semester when immigrants and their supporters rallied and marched in late March against the H.R. 4437 bill passed by the House of Representatives.

“We put aside the scheduled readings and are now focusing on the immigration debate because it is a historic event,” said Marta Lopez-Garza, professor of the class and Women’s Studies Department chair.

The schedule in the syllabus was put aside because the phenomenon of immigration mobilization is something that concerns everyone, including the students in the class, Lopez-Garza said.

The students see these times the same way as their professor does.

“This is definitely important,” said Veronica Casta?eda, junior psychology major. “We know what’s going on. This is history. We are living history.”

Students are asked to analyze the current situation of immigrants and understand the background and history of it through readings.

“Instead of reading material of what’s already been analyzed, students have to analyze what’s taking place in front of their eyes,” Lopez-Garza said.

The students are not only learning to understand immigration, but also synthesize raw material, Lopez-Garza added.

Students still take down notes as Lopez-Garza lectures, but she also lets the students get involved in discussions during the class, said Hugo Tapia, senior Chicano/a Studies major.

“I like the way she taught it because we’re not depending on others for information,” Tapia said. “We go out and research to get the information for ourselves.”

Students were not required to read the text, but that did not cut down the amount of material students had to read and research for the class, said Andrea Barahora, junior criminal justice major.

Students read at least 50 pages each week, Casta?eda said.

“We still read a lot, especially newspaper articles,” Barahora said.

The class was not designed to force a specific opinion on the students, Lopez-Garza said.

The readings and research are intended to leave them well-informed and intelligent enough on the topic of immigration to establish their own position on it, she added.

Lopez-Garza assigned students to groups to work on a project.

The students give a presentation toward the final week of the semester.

One group must pretend they are undocumented immigrants that must determine whether to take political action in protesting for more rights.

The second group has students act as attorneys that have to advise Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on where to stand on the issue of immigration.

Students must also think as parents, middle and high school teachers and administrators. Their job is to come up with a new curriculum model and forums to discuss the issue with the students.

Another group has students working as recently graduated journalists wanting to create a piece on the issue. They must present their research and explain where they are getting their findings from.

The last of the groups have students acting as senators and politicians creating an ideal immigration bill, and as high school students who were involved in the walkouts giving their plans for any future actions.

Each student has to conduct extensive research and interviews with people in the field that they are assigned to represent.

“We’re really dedicated to this project,” said Barahora, who is in the parent and teacher group. “We have put a lot of effort and time into it. We’ve interviewed over 100 people, including parents and people from schools.”

Despite the hard work and extensive research, the students enjoy the project.

“Sometimes it is really hard,” Casta?eda said. “But it fits in perfectly to the class.”

The issue of immigration is an important one to talk about in the classroom because of the area we live in, Lopez-Garza said.

“We live in such a diverse region,” she said. “It’s like looking at the world when you’re looking at Los Angeles.”

A diverse immigrant population is part of what the students learn in the class, Tapia said.

Students talk about the hardships of not only Latino families, but Asian, Filipino and Middle Eastern families as well.

Those involved said the class has really opened up their eyes.

“We learned of much harder things than crossing the river,” Barahora said. “We learned of trafficking and sweatshops. It has really opened my eyes on how everybody is affected by this.”

This class on world migration will culminate in a two-day teach-in, where the groups will present their studies and findings. The first teach-in will take place May 17 from 4:20 to 6:50 p.m. The second teach-in will take place May 24 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Both teach-ins will be held at Sierra Hall, Room 284.