Community Leaders Organizing Undocumented Dreamers, or CLOUD, is a recently formed organization in Contra Costa County that is joining with Bay Area allies to empower and educate the community about the struggles of illegal immigrants while collectively striving to achieve equity.

To help the community understand their personal struggles, CLOUD leaders share their stories.

Carlos Martinez

  • Age: 23

  • Attends City College of San Francisco

    "I grew up in Salinas. I was born in Hidalgo, Mexico, and was raised by a single mom. I came to the U.S. when I was 11 years old.

    My mother called a 'coyote,' which is kind of like a smuggler, and I crossed the border in Arizona with my little sister, who was about 9 or 10. There was a group of about 20 and we walked for four days and three nights -- even sleeping there.

    I enrolled in sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, and when I was a senior it was time for me to apply for college. My friends were applying to UCs. I went to talk to my counselor and I said, 'I'm undocumented, but I want to go to college, and is there any way I can go to college?'

    And I still remember her looking at me and saying: 'I'm sorry, I don't know if you can go to college.'

    I was the first in my family to graduate from high school so that was a big thing for my mom. But I didn't know what was my future.


    Advertisement

    I worked cutting lettuce with my mom in the fields for six or seven months.

    I remember one day when we were working together, she basically said, 'I didn't bring you to this country to be cutting lettuce with me.'

    That was shock, because I had the skills. I'm smart. I knew this language. But I was there working in the fields, not being productive and not using the skills that I have.

    So my friend told me about AB540. I enrolled in Hartnell Community College in Salinas. I was taking general ed classes and working at KFC. Salinas -- it's a farming area -- there's a lot of Latinos and Mexicans, but there wasn't a group to help undocumented students. So my friend and I decided to created a group Mas Fe, or 'more faith.' My friend got a full-ride scholarship to San Francisco State University and he convinced me to move to City College of San Francisco, so that's how I moved to the Bay Area.

    I already had the mentality that I was going to join a group serving undocumented students or start my own. I had that determination. So I talked to a counselor, Leti Silva, who was like my angel when I got there, at City College.

    (With other students) we created the first undocumented group/club: SAFE, Students Advocating For Equity.

    Then, we created the first resource center for undocumented students: VIDA, Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievements. So, that's like my baby.

    It was through my work in City College that I got the scholarship that placed me with CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Organization).

    I got a Dream Summer Scholarship, through the Dream Research Center and UCLA Labor Center. You have to apply and they give you an opportunity to do community work for civic engagement with a nonprofit close to your community.

    On June 15, President Obama made the deferred action announcement and the following Monday, I was meeting with CCISCO because I was starting my internship. This was a hot topic, a new topic. They said, 'We don't have a group in Richmond, so your job is to start a group.'

    That's how I met Jose Juan.

    We've been doing events through Catholic churches -- screenings to see if they qualify for deferred action and answering questions. We have lawyers.

    I've been organizing for five years with the undocumented movement. At our event, I saw people with this passion to organize and educate the community. What kind of got to me was, we met for less than a month and we were able to pull off this event and 300 people showed up and it was all youths who took ownership and decided: 'We're going to educate the community.' That's not going to go away for me. I was surprised. I was shocked. It was so beautiful.

    Every meeting that we have and every event that we have, we try -- Jose Juan and myself -- we try to tell the youths: 'We're not just providing information. We don't just want to inform the community, we want to help the community organize and see the bigger picture.' The deferred action is only two years.

    It was a big victory for all the undocumented people who live in the country but this is not the end. We we want to push for a federal Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

    What I see in our CLOUD leaders is they understand that this is going to benefit us, but it's not going to benefit our parents. We have to benefit the community.

    I can't vote, but I can influence citizens that can vote for us and with that we can have a strong voice.

    I remember when my counselor said, 'I don't know if you can go to college.' I don't want other people to have that memory."

    Theresa Harrington covers education. Contact her at 925-945-4764. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa. Read her education blog atIBAbuzz.com/onassignment.