Porterville College Professor of English as a Second Language Bulmaro Cisneros, Ph.D, introduced himself to a large audience of students, faculty, and the public and spoke about his struggle entering the U.S. as an illegal immigrant in 1985, and how he crossed the border with children and other people with the help of a coyote (smuggler.) When they crossed the immigration vehicles were already waiting for them.
He started working in the fields, something he’d never done, in Porterville. Picking oranges and lemons, and he remembers not receiving any help. Then under President Reagan the system changed, and he was able to become a U.S. citizen, and the rest is history. He’s now a Professor of English as a Second Language, and is helping undocumented students and documented students with their language studies.
Four of his students spoke about their trials crossing the border into the United States, and all were pregnant when they were crossing in a moving display.
Esmeralda Alcantar crossed with her husband in 2000, and said they had to run a lot, and it was difficult because she was four months pregnant. They crossed the border to have a better future for their children. The separation from their families was the worst, she said. But after eight years they were able to get work permits, and now they’re legal residents and don’t have to live in fear.
Throughout the students testimonies many students and people were all standing in the Porterville College Quad holding signs “Porterville College Supports Undocumented Students,” and Professor Daniel Rice thanked them for their support.
He then introduced singer Lance Canales, from Orosi, who sang Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” and spoke about all the indignities Mexican, and people of Mexican descendants have endured. He said, “This land has always been a place for people to come. This is our ancestral home, and the land of your ancestors. Don’t let anyone put you down. They treat us like dirt in our own home. Putting our children in cages.”
He spoke about the undocumented immigrants who died in a plane crash in Los Gatos, and suggested people visit Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno where there’s a memorial to them.
Prior to Canales’ song, a woman spoke a satirical speech about “Our 45,” saying “Our 45 doesn’t discriminate against anyone in particular. Twitter isn’t at fault.”
ESL student Ana Maria Perez has been in the U.S for 20 years and came across the border in the middle of the night. She was also pregnant.
Rosara Alcantar, and Gabriela Vidal also spoke about their experiences crossing the border and each had a different story. They’ve all had to overcome much as illegal immigrants, but Rosara is now a legal resident, and said, “There is a lot of help for undocumented people, especially students.”
Vidal has been in California for four years, and spoke eloquently about having her son in school in the U.S., and then having to go back to Mexico. She said the school and what has provided for her child was so wonderful, and when she went back to Mexico she had to pay for everything, and her home was broken into. She decided to return to the U.S. and she said her husband, and she was mistreated at the border by and immigration official, a woman, because she was pregnant.
She said, “We emigrate because we want better for our families, for our children, and for ourselves.
“Thousands of immigrants came here to achieve their dreams.”
She named famous Latina and Latino actors, civil rights workers, and writers, like Salma Hayek, Cesar Chavez, and Isabelle Allende.
“We want everyone to be aware of the situation,” Cisneros said.
Dr. Claudia Habib, President of Porterville College, greeted everyone and said, “This is very touching, all these stories.” She said, “This is an effort supported by community colleges in California, to send a message to Congress.
She spoke about being an immigrant, sympathizing even though her situation was different. She said, “Many of us feel guilty because we have a better future. Lance Canales reminded us with his songs of the sufferings of immigrants. And those stories made us understand the strong impact of undocumented immigration stories.”
Everyone then gathered around and held up their signs that said, “Porterville College Supports Undocumented Students.”
Cisneros said the main purpose for the gathering, music, open mic, and storytelling was to inform the community Porterville College is committed to supporting students by offering them different kinds of help so they can continue their academic journey.
“When we do not know our stories, when we forget our stories, when we cannot tell our stories. . . something in the world dies,” is a quote from Ann Marie Wagstaff, Professor of English, Ph.D.
Professors Daniel Rice and Sarah Rector helped plan and organize the musical story-telling event to help bring awareness to the community at large.