Editor’s note: This is one installment in a four-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.
At many times in his life, Richard Alvarado has faced — and overcome — adversity.
Alvarado has been working since he was 15 years old, struggled with mental illness and encountered temporary homelessness. For most of his childhood in the Bay Area, his parents and extended family faced the threat of deportation.
Having experienced these hardships, Alvarado is running for ASUC president, hoping to provide equal opportunity to students and to mobilize the campus against President Donald Trump. He is running with the Defend Affirmative Action Party, or DAAP, which also endeavors to increase diversity on campus — a goal that Alvarado cites as a top priority of his in his campaign for the presidential seat.
“The same diversity that you see in Oakland and Richmond and all the other surrounding places … I want to see that on campus,” Alvarado said. “This is a public institution — it should mirror its public.”
Alvarado, a junior transfer student majoring in anthropology, was born in New York, but at a young age moved to El Salvador, his parent’s country of origin. Alvarado lived in El Salvador for almost seven years before his family made the decision to immigrate to California.
“I had the early advantage of having lived somewhere else … somewhere very different than living in California,” Alvarado said. “It exposed me early on to ideas of equity and equality and of real economic disparity.”
After immigrating back to the United States, Alvarado’s family moved repeatedly — from San Francisco to Richmond and Vallejo to Marin County. Often, his relocation was the result of his mother following work in an effort to support not only her immediate family, but also family that had remained in El Salvador.
Alvarado’s mother has had to work several jobs to make ends meet. Adding to the family’s feeling of instability, although Alvarado had been born in the United States and was therefore a citizen, his parents and most of his extended family was undocumented. His family’s struggle impacted many facets of his identity, including his perception of his future.
“The very concept of higher education was just not something that was part of the daily conversation,” Alvarado said. “When you’re dealing with all these other things like immigration, deportation is a very real thing. … Thematically, there’s just this feeling of instability.”
Friends of Alvarado are confidant in his ability to successfully lead the student body. Gracie Maggee, Alvarado’s partner, said he is intellectual and thoughtful and lives in accordance with his morals.
Danielle Payton, Alvarado’s longtime friend and fellow protester, described Alvarado as charismatic, empathetic and caring for people and his community.
“I really do feel like his life drive is to be of service,” Payton said. “He really shows that in the way he treats others, even strangers.”
Alvarado is vying for the presidential seat against three other candidates: Student Action candidate André Luu, CalSERVE candidate Zaynab AbdulQadir and SQUELCH! candidate Ghost. Alvarado says he was drawn to DAAP because of the party’s strong anti-deportation and anti-Trump stances.
DAAP also aims to build a defense network — a system to protect undocumented immigrants from being deported. DAAP aims to stop new fee hikes and reverse the tuition increase and education budget cuts. Additionally, the party hopes to win a federal and a UC-wide DREAM Act — a legislative proposal process that would allow undocumented immigrants in the United States to be granted conditional residency and, later, permanent residency if they meet certain qualifications.
DAAP has close ties to By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, a national organization that aims to “defend affirmative action, integration and immigrant rights and fight for equal pay by any means necessary,” according to BAMN’s website.
“I think the fact that DAAP is a subsidiary of BAMN is really important to highlight — I don’t support BAMN as an organization,” AbdulQadir said.
AbdulQadir said, however, that she believes DAAP’s role is important as it prevents the race for the ASUC presidential seat from becoming a two-party race.
Up against candidates running with more established parties, Alvarado faces daunting odds. A DAAP candidate has not won a senate seat in the last decade and has never won a seat on the executive board.
“That should discourage me,” Alvarado said. “(But) even if we don’t win any senate seats, even if we don’t win any of the executive positions, we’re still here to build this movement. We’re … using this as a platform to let people know we’re here, and we’re ready to fight.”