Immigration Policy Debate at Valencia Community College

The Phi Theta Kappa honors society at Valencia Community College invited the Orlando YAYA Chapter to participate in an information fair and debate on immigration policy on October 28 at their campus.

Sindy Bonilla, Eden Martin, Antonio Franco, and I shared information about the issues faced by undocumented farm workers, who are the vast majority of the workforce, and about AgJOBS, a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for farm workers

Valencia students traveled around Phi Theta Kappa’s information tables in the campus’s central courtyard and received a stamp on a “passport” at each table. After visiting all the tables, they could get a free hotdog and drink. We shared a table with a station that focused on the story of one teenage girl who died crossing the desert into the U.S. and provided statistics on the hundreds of immigrants who die trying to cross the border every year. It was a great outreach opportunity, and we really enjoyed spending time talking with Valencia students about farm worker issues.

Antonio Franco and I also participated in a debate on immigration policy on behalf of Orlando YAYA with the College Democrats and College Republicans at Valencia. While the College Democrats supported creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the College Republicans focused on the need for border security.

We used the debate as an education opportunity to speak about the very limited pathways to legally immigrate to the U.S., which entirely exclude low-wage workers. We spoke about the root causes that push people to immigrate, including poverty and free trade policies enacted by the U.S. that make it impossible for small farmers to retain their livelihood in their home countries. We also talked about our country’s dependence on the undocumented agricultural workforce and the nightmarish realities that farm worker families face because of racial profiling, fear of deportation, and exploitation in the workplace.

Most of the attendees were very supportive and eager to learn more about issues affecting undocumented farm workers While the adversarial style of the debate was not exactly ideal for sharing information, Antonio and I were challenged to communicate farm worker issues in a concise and compelling way. We appreciate Phi Theta Kappa’s work to bring the statistics and tragedies behind the immigration debate to light through the awareness event. We are deeply saddened that Congress has not brought any piece of immigration reform to fruition reform this year, but we will continue outreaching and connecting with allies to join us in the struggle.

-Johana Vesga

Orlando YAYA

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