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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Advocacy groups form Alianza to provide benefits for immigrants

City and university groups catering to immigrants came together recently to form Alianza, a new service and advocacy group made up of members of ten organizations.

These groups include Chispas, the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice and the Rural Women's Project. The groups formed Alianza in December to accomplish mutual goals and to pool resources.

Jose Soto, organizer of Alianza, said consolidating and increasing communication between the various groups was essential.

"People didn't know we had the same programs," Soto said. "If we can coordinate the dates and resources, we can provide better services to this marginalized group."

Soto said Alianza has three goals: to provide health services, provide English language courses and advocate for the rights of both documented and undocumented immigrants.

An issue the group and many of its associated organizations advocated for was SB 1018, which would have granted in-state tuition to students whose parents are undocumented immigrants. The bill was killed in the Senate Committee on Higher Education. A similar bill that would have allowed both documented and undocumented students to pay instate tuition was killed in the state Senate this month.

Victor Yengle, Chispas assistant external director and Alianza member, said the rejection of these bills gives students the impression that hard work will not pay off if a student or his or her family is undocumented.

"Kids are graduating who busted their butts," said the 23-year-old economics junior. "They're valedictorians, have high GPAs and deserve a place at this university."

The group also works with local agencies and created a monthly migrant calendar, which shows when and where English classes, the mobile clinic for farm workers and other events will be held.

Most of these services are provided in apartment complexes, churches and motels where many documented and undocumented immigrants live.

UF alumni and assistant teacher for Alachua County Fernando Figueroa said it is essential to bring these resources to immigrants.

"They'll work six days a week, if they're lucky," he said. "They have very little free time. By bringing it directly to them, it's easier for them to get the help they need."

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Alianza had a joint meeting with Chispas Wednesday night. They showed a film about migrant workers and had a migrant worker, Oscar Otzoy of Immokalee speak about his experiences.

He said he's glad the organization is focused on bringing change.

"I'm glad they're reaching a broader audience," he said through a translator. "Especially students, to see and make them aware of the changes we need to see in the field."

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