Jennifer Sanchez, a former journalist for the Salt Lake Tribune for five years, was questioned for naturalization papers while covering an immigration story at the Utah state capitol. She wondered why the authorities would deny her the ability to do her job when she was a citizen of the United States. In frustration, due to her assignment to present a formidable article for her job, Sanchez was denied her citizen rights.
Sanchez, now an Immigrant and Refugee Integration Director for the United Way, spoke out at an advocacy training seminar held at Salt Lake Community College, discussing the upcoming legislation for immigration reform in the state of Utah. The Enriching Utah Coalition (EUC) and Comudidades Unidas (United Communities) representatives were also present to inform students and faculty how to advocate to their political leaders on behalf of immigration policy. With her responsibilities working at the United Way, Sanchez now helps people of all racial backgrounds understand their rights and the ways in which they can speak out on issues that will affect them.
“Students need to know the representatives that they should contact,” Sanchez said.
Twenty new immigration legislation bills will be discussed during this year’s first general session. The most prominent bill is the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act. The legislation would authorize racial profiling for law enforcement officers when they suspect a person to be an illegal immigrant. This is only one of the many authorizations that would take place under this bill, not including the other 19 bills being presented.
Salt Lake Community College has a Hispanic/Latino population of 2,982 students as of the current spring semester. This makes up for over 10 percent of students at SLCC. These students along with any other suspected minority could be affected by this new legislation.
Undocumented students from other nations attend SLCC. According to the Utah Board of Regents, 378 alien/non-resident students came to SLCC between the 2010 fall semester and the 2011 spring semester.
There are steps that students, undocumented and citizens alike, can take to voice their opinions concerning this upcoming legislation.
Luis Garza is a Comunidades Unidas Representative. He hopes that the seminar will “change the dialogue” for students.
“There is a mutual way to address immigration. People need to learn to advocate for issues that they really care about,” Garza said.
In order to accomplish this task, a student must take the steps to talk to their legislator about the issues they have. Through the use of the Internet, students can look up bills in the legislature to educate themselves on what they can do to present their opinion on the issues.
“Legislators are already approached to take sides on certain issues,” Bernice Anderson, audience member of the seminar said. Thus, a student must make his or her position clear when talking to his legislator, providing real life examples of how the issue has or may affect him or her.
To look up a bill or find out about a legislator, visit le.utah.gov.