Having recently hosted “Saturday Night Live,” an NBC comedy show, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been the topic everyone has been discussing.
The Cerritos College Board of Trustees has not been the exception.
Drafting a Discussion
On Wednesday, Oct. 7, Trustee Sandra Salazar requested a discussion item with the intent to talk about recent political discourse, Trump’s rhetoric at the forefront.
The resolution represented a stance of support for the state senate who “dumped Trump.”
To “dump Trump” means to encourage citizens and businesses to stray from doing business with Trump’s enterprises.
She began by expressing that she was the daughter of an immigrant mother, who is now a citizen and a voter and how Trump’s xenophobia affects her and her family.
The trustee said she felt a “moral obligation to speak up for those in the shadows,” and lamented that “too many elected officials are afraid to speak up” for them.
“[…] I felt compelled to put this item on the agenda and as a medical doctor and knowing hundreds of professionals who began their careers at the community college I feel that we have an obligation to represent our students before draconian policies are proposed and the mass deportations from the 50s,” Salazar said.
She is referring to an initiative created by Director of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services Joseph Swing in cooperation with the Mexican government in the 50s.
The initiative deported Mexican-Americans and individuals of Mexican descent without cause.
“When we hear this we can’t afford to remain silent,” she expressed.
The trustee felt that Trump’s narrative of hate mongering affects the Cerritos College community, a Hispanic serving institution.
Salazar quickly assured members of the board that in discussing and supporting this item they would not be endorsing any candidates running for the United States presidency.
Board President Carmen Avalos, felt she couldn’t support a resolution that targeted one person, although she disagreed with his rhetoric, and pointed out that she would much rather support a resolution that supported students and diversity.
She said, “I realize they’re good intentions. I support the things you’re talking about. […] we have an obligation to our students and we’re fulfilling them and providing them with everything we discussed at the table and it’s not fair or right or our place as a college board and I will not support that.”
Round Two: Taking Action
On Thursday, Nov 5, the resolution was brought back to the board as administrative item No. 31.
The Cheryl A. Epple Board Room was full of students and community members who wanted to express their support for Resolution No. 15-1105B condemning racist rhetoric against immigrant families made by presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Students and the occasional community member stood up one by one and took to the microphone during public comment to tell how immigration has affected their family.
Go Green Task Force Chair Synnikiu Avalos shared her story on having to be separated from her mother, who was deported when she was 13.
Through nervous breaths, History major Luis Guzman, shared how he found out he was an undocumented student when he was applying for a job.
That night, the board voted against the resolution and swiftly moved on to other matters.
Paez, who had strong words for the board president in both English and Spanish said, […] “I referred to [the board president] because I know her biography. […]”
The community leader described the board president as passionate and as someone who suffered when coming to the United States.
She continued, “So where did the suffering that she mentioned go?”
“I am really disappointed in her because she refused to support the resolution and had the audacity to say she is proud to be an immigrant, she is contradicting herself,” she concluded.
Both sides of the spectrum
Carmen Avalos defended her stance on the resolution by saying, “Personally, obviously as an immigrant I’m very supportive of immigrant issues, I do other things that support immigrant issues.”
She stated that she helps immigrants by assisting them when filling out various forms such as to become legal residents, citizens, or their forms to vote.
“For someone to criticize me or attack me based on the fact that I don’t support what they want, they have an opportunity to do that, but I think it is put in the wrong place because they should see my track record as an individual because I’ve done some amazing things,” she said.
As to why she voted no she expressed, “I think it’s a philosophical ideology and the majority of the folks who sit on this board aren’t going to condone hatred remarks.”
She added, “However, I do think that as board members we should really stay away from the political arena in terms of the national presidential election […].”
The board president concluded, “In regards to what we do for students, quite frankly tonight was the classic example of how supportive we are really of student engagement, student support services, student opportunities to access to courses.”
Before entering closed session, Salazar expressed her excitement to see the amount of students who showed up.
“They shared their personal stories and really brought life to the meaning as to why we’re trying to push the resolution. This is a statewide senate resolution, so this was more to adopt the resolution already presented by the state senate,” she said.
The trustee continued, “I’m disappointed that we focused on the politics of it, what I’m trying to focus on is taking a stance against hate speech, promoting tolerance and really letting our students know that they can come to school without fear and truly give a voice to students who don’t have a voice.”
Salazar expressed that this is the end of the resolution.
“Once there’s a vote the board has spoken and we’ll move on to other issues.”