Students, alumni advocate for supporting Central American refugees at ASUC meeting

Doug Smith/Staff

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About 100 people advocated for a resolution to support the Central American migrant caravan at Wednesday night’s ASUC Senate meeting, during which Chancellor Carol Christ also addressed updates regarding campus inclusivity efforts and safety hazards.

The resolution allocates $1,500 to Central Americans for Empowerment, a student group that supports Central American students and has been sending students and supplies to the caravan. The resolution also asks that the money is then donated to the nonprofit network Freedom for Immigrants.

During the two public comment sessions, about 40 people spoke in support of the resolution, urging senators to support Central American refugees. Most gave statistics regarding the migrants, while many also spoke about their personal histories seeing or experiencing immigration from Latin America.

“One thousand five hundred dollars is honestly not a lot of money,” Manny Avila-Vargas, executive director of the Raíces Recruitment and Retention Center, said during public comment. “If you’re in a position of privilege, you can support these people. If you can’t support people in need, then maybe you shouldn’t be sitting in these seats.”

Because the resolution was first introduced to the senate during Wednesday night’s meeting, it was moved to “immediate consideration” to be passed. The senators took a roll-call vote to move the resolution, during which 14 out of the 20 senators voted to move the resolution.

Many people who voiced support for the resolution identified the six senators who did not vote to move the resolution to “immediate consideration” — the roll-call vote was taken after Senator Imran Khan objected to moving the resolution, citing concerns about maintaining the senate’s autonomy.

Khan later noted during discussion that he was worried about the resolution’s departure from procedure but that he fully supported the resolution. Many of the six senators who voted against moving the resolution also affirmed their support for the resolution during discussion.

“I don’t see that there’s any opposition, and yet we’re still approaching this with this ‘You’re against this, you’re not letting it go through,’ but that’s not true,” Khan said during discussion. “My only concern was preserving our autonomy, but that’s not a concern and that’s been answered.”

The resolution passed unanimously, with all 20 senators present.

During general announcements, Christ announced that the campus’s final strategic plan will be published next week and that she is working on opening three task forces with goals relating to increasing UC Berkeley’s diversity. Christ also asked senators for advice on how to respond more effectively to campuswide safety hazards, including the smoke from the Camp Fire.

In response, senators raised concerns including communication issues with administrators, the lack of masks and services provided by the campus and the need for a tangible response plan to health hazards.

“I’m trying to use this as a learning opportunity for the administration and for the whole campus,” Christ said. “We clearly could have done some things better (and) we learned a lot about what we weren’t prepared for.”

Sakura Cannestra is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.