Sonoma State University student Sandy Espino Valenciano will be recognized with the Mario Savio Award for student activism by the American Civil Liberties Union northern California chapter of Sonoma County on May 3 in Santa Rosa.
As Northern California Coordinator of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Valenciano has devoted herself to the fair treatment of undocumented persons.
“I was very humbled,” said Valenciano. “But, it’s weird for me to receive this award. I don’t do things because I want to be rewarded or acknowledged. Something needs to get done, it’s my responsibility to do it as a living being and human.”
The California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance promotes leadership amongst undocumented youth. Valenciano, who is undocumented herself, reached out to the alliance in 2011 when she first started to attend Sonoma State.
Her involvement has blossomed since. Valenciano is engaged continuously with the implementation of California’s Trust Act, which aimed to disentangle the cooperation between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
She was also part of a strong push for the passage of California’s Assembly Bill 60, which requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver’s license to undocumented persons who can prove identity and California residency.
In the coming weeks, Valenciano will travel to Arizona as part of the #Not1More campaign, which aims to stop deportations and close detention centers.
This is after contributing to the Health4All campaign, a legislative effort to provide healthcare coverage to all Californians.
In April 2014, Valenciano proved the ability to stand up for causes she promotes.
Under President Barack Obama’s administration, it was estimated more than 2 million individuals were deported from the United States.
What ensued was a 300-plus person protest at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s offices in San Francisco. The protest eventually closed an intersection.
Valenciano was among 26 individuals arrested, but not charged.
The story of her family and their struggle with the classification of undocumented, Valenciano said, has been her motivation to improve her life. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, Valenciano would spend only a handful of years in her birth country.
In 1998, at the age of 4, the Valenciano family immigrated to the United States. They eventually settled in Antioch.
Valenciano said there existed barriers which influenced her life merely because her family was undocumented.
Those barriers included the confiscation of vehicles, her parents unable to find employment and their inability to receive state aid.
Even after years of living in the United States, there exists a distinction between her family and millions who share undocumented status.
Recently, her grandmother passed away. Her father, because of his undocumented status, was not able to visit his mother in Mexico.
“My dad cried more about the fact that he would be able to see his mother in the casket, rather than her passing away,” said Valenciano. “No person ever deserves to feel like that, so hopeless, to be in such pain. I don’t think anyone thinks of immigration in that perspective.”
Valencia will graduate Sonoma State in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
She is the first of her entire family to attend a four-year university.
Her activism parallels the accomplishments of Savio, an activist most commonly associated with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.
Savio became a professor at Sonoma State just before he passed away in Sebastopol in 1996. At the northwest corner of the quad, Sonoma State honors him with The Mario Savio Speakers’ Corner.
The American Civil Liberties Union Northern California chapter of Sonoma County will honor Elbert “Big Man” Howard and Carole Hyams-Howard with the 2015 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award.
Elbert Howard was one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party and has recently help found the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline of Sonoma County.
The Awards Celebration and Luncheon is on May 3, at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa.