Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria, the daughter of farmworkers, had an important message to deliver at the 15th annual Latino Graduation Celebration last Saturday (May 12) at Fresno City College.
The immigrant community that has contributed in many ways to this country is under assault, but it will survive through its resiliency, Soria told more than 200 graduates who packed into the college’s Old Administration Building auditorium.
After asking people to raise their hand if they are an immigrant, a child of an immigrant or the grandchild of an immigrant, Soria noted the similarities among the students – some of which are her students.
“We are all tied together by the concept of resilience that is rooted in our immigrant story,” said Soria, an adjunct professor.
“It is a story that starts with a dream. In our lives, I get that in our family’s own history we can trace back to that one person that had the dream.”
Soria, who is seeking re-election to her second term on the council, too verbal swipes at President Donald J. Trump for ending the Temporary Protection Program for immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti; for berating staff for not deporting immigrants faster; and, for his fury that the U.S. cannot shut the border.
“Our immigrant community has been and is under attack,” said Soria. “But, guess what? We are a resilient people with grit and ganas (desire). We all must fight for what is right.”
Our immigrant community has been and is under attack. But, guess what? We are a resilient people with grit and ganas (desire). We all must fight for what is right.
Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria
Soria added that not all immigrants are criminals, as Trump has suggested.
“Do we look like criminals? No! We are hardworking people that have dreams and contribute billions of dollars to our economy, and will continue to do so because our U.S. economy needs us,” she said.
Soria called the immigration issue “our communities’ civil rights issue.” She encouraged people to vote, or to encourage others to vote in the upcoming election.
Not everything was about immigration in her 20-minute speech. She challenged the graduates to not be afraid to speak up and get involved.
“Think about your future without forgetting about the past,” she said. “The past has allowed us to reach these moments, and shapes who we are.”
The Latino graduation, which began with only six students in an event held in the college cafeteria, had all the trappings of a fiesta.
Mariachi Universal de Marisa Orduño entertained the audience before the ceremony with standards like ‘México Lindo y Querido’ and ‘Tú Sólo Tú,’ before breaking into a rousing ‘Marcha de Zacatecas’ as the graduates filed down the aisles to their seats.
After the ceremony, René Emilio sang in the courtyard while graduates and their guests had drinks and cake.
“It was actually very nice,” said graduate Rachel Loya, 36, about the ceremony. “It had a family setting.”
Loya plans to transfer to Fresno State to major in criminology in hopes of working in juvenile probation.
She was a recurring drug addict before she lost co-parenting custody of her three children. That was enough for her to go straight.
“I just wanted custody of my kids, instead of making another negative from a negative,” said Loya.
The ceremony was organized by the Latino Faculty & Staff Association.
Photo gallery of ceremony: www.vidaenelvalle.com