In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, students came together this past Thursday to discuss how citizenship status affects personal struggles surrounding love and relationships.

Students Informing Now, an AB 540 and undocumented student support group in conjunction with The Chicana/o Latina/o Resource Center, also known as El Centro, created the event. It was held in the Cervantes/Velasquez Room in the Bay Tree Conference Center.

Rosie Cabrera, the director of El Centro, said there was an overwhelming student response to create a safe space for students to share their stories regarding dating and relationships in an already complicated context of citizenship status.

“When it comes to the political issue of immigrant rights, we forgot the humanity of it all,” Cabrera said. “We forget the human beings and how miraculous their journeys have been and the amount of strength they have. We forget the relationships they have to negotiate on a daily basis — whether it be relationships with colleagues, peers, friends.”

The event featured three guest speakers, including UC Santa Cruz students David Cruz, Martha Ortega and alumnus Jose Mondragon.

Jose Mondragon shared his personal struggles as an undocumented student.

“I spoke about my experience of being undocumented and being queer and what that means for me. I’ve had to come out twice — not only as undocumented, but as queer,” Mondragon said.

Mondragon also spoke about an important issue that many undocumented students face. Prior to the California Dream Act authorizing AB 540 students to apply for the Cal Grant Program, many undocumented students such as Mondragon were unable to receive financial aid. Mondragon applied and was accepted for admission for the NYU master’s program for sociology of education. However, because of his citizenship status, he was deferred admission because he did not receive financial aid.

Despite individual hardships and struggles, some attendees were confident in their identities and hopeful for the future.

“There’s a lot of talk today about the dreamers of this generation being a problem because they were brought to this country by our parents,” Mondragon said. “There’s a lot of blame on our families for bringing us to this country, but I think they did something courageous.”