As an intern at GCIR this summer, I got to support various projects, some of which allowed me to connect with and learn from immigrant justice movement leaders across the nation. Hearing about the organizing work being done in places like Louisiana and Michigan was impressive, humbling, and energizing. It was also frustrating, as I saw so much unfairness. Many social justice movement leaders and organizers have a hard time simply finding time to rest. And some of these organizations cannot afford to hire full time staff to carry out the work. I saw firsthand the importance of investing in capacity and leadership building, which can in turn improve the health, wellbeing, and livelihoods of our people. Working for immigrant justice is taxing, especially for those who are directly impacted, something I learned personally back home in Arizona growing up in a family with mixed immigration statuses.
While working with immigrant youth in the past I learned that, because this labor is so deeply personal, it’s important to honor that lived experience and compensate folx fairly. Fellowship opportunities and roles as independent contractors are among the equitable approaches. In my conversations with field leaders, I was reminded of how creative and powerful movement work can be, especially work led by BIPOC folx and youth! It made me reflect on my time as an organizer with an educational non-profit in Arizona, which I first joined as a teenager and where I have been able to grow as a leader.
Another project this summer allowed me to un-learn and re-learn the history of immigration. As I helped GCIR staff develop a timeline of immigration history in the U.S. and acts of BIPOC resistance, I expanded the idea I had of immigration and deepened my understanding of my role in it. Despite currently pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Southern California, during my internship I found myself thinking and learning beyond what might be presented to me in a traditional classroom. As I continue working toward my goal of becoming an educator, I see the importance of sharing the history of the people, decentering the victors, and painting a fuller picture that includes everyone.
As I wrap up my time as an intern with GCIR, I am walking away with so much learning and growth. I experienced a positive, open, and collaborative working environment that made me reevaluate what I want and need from a job and employer. I’m extremely grateful to Cairo Mendes and Ivy Suriyopas, my supervisors this summer, for facilitating numerous opportunities for me to continue growing into my leadership and for trusting me. Thank you.
I am also walking away with a stronger conviction than ever that Undocumented people are resilient and are finding ways to make it work every day. Yet this isn’t something to be romanticized or glamorized. My hope is that we continue to increase investment in our communities and youth so they can grow as leaders, take care of themselves, and thrive, not just get by.
Jaynelle (she, her, ella) is a proud, brown, Mexican immigrant, daughter, sister, and friend. Jaynelle first fell in love with advocacy work after traveling with the ScholarshipsA-Z (SA-Z) team in the summer of 2016 to United We Dream’s Congress in Houston, Texas. She volunteered with SA-Z, an educational non-profit organization in Arizona, for five years holding various positions and leading distinct areas of work. Drawing on this knowledge and experience, Jaynelle has continued her advocacy work specifically for Undocumented students at the University of Southern California (USC), which she attends full time. Serving as the Chair for the Affordability and Basic Needs Legislative Committee in the Undergraduate Student Government, Jaynelle was able to bring training to student leaders at USC on effective allyship for Undocumented students as well as spearheading a work study alternative program initiative to ensure that Undocumented students have equitable access to opportunities on campus.
Jaynelle believes higher education should be a right for all students regardless of their immigration status. Until this is true, she will keep asking questions to include and advocate for the Undocumented community in any and every space she is in.