Dianey Murillo’s Journey From an Undocumented Student to a Luchadora and Organizer in the Inland Empire

Silvia Dianey Murillo is currently the Community Engagement Coordinator with the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC). The IEIYC is a grassroots community organization that serves undocumented and immigrant families in the Inland Empire by providing various educational, health, and legal resources. Dianey is one of several members who in their youth started as a general member and is now among one of the most prominent leaders in the organization.

Dianey was born in Mexico, but her parents brought her to the U.S. at eight years old. She was raised in Riverside, California. She is extremely proud to be from Riverside and undocumented, she wants other undocumented folks to feel comfortable to share their immigration status so that this community could build strength and a voice in the Inland Empire (IE).

One of Dianey’s proudest accomplishments was earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

“Being in those spaces you doubt yourself a lot. What I have to say matters and I validate it for my parents who work in hard labor and for their sacrifices. I proved to myself that I belong in those spaces and that it did not matter that I was a transfer student and it took me longer than most students,” said Murillo.

Dianey’s educational journey was a rough one because of the barriers she encountered from being undocumented in high school and college. She attended Norte Vista High School and when the time to apply to college arrived, she struggled because she knew she had good grades, but there wasn’t DACA at the time and she really didn’t know about her rights. She felt that she did not have the mentorship to make it to a four year university because counselors did not share proper information with undocumented students. Instead they encouraged her to attend a community college, and she decided to attend Riverside Community College (RCC).

Dianey took on a lot of responsibility being the first in her family to attend college, alongside with her sister, Saira. She started community college without a network of support and was not even aware of the option of exchanging used books, and asked her dad to help her buy textbooks, which ended up being brand new books that cost more. Having a support system in college is crucial because sharing tips like this might be small, but they can truly impact undocumented students’ life because of the many financial stressors.

Dianey joined Puente at RCC, a program to help community college students obtain an undergraduate degree and to become leaders in their community, in 2011. This program provided her with an individual counselor to help navigate this unfamiliar ground. Dianey’s counselor was particularly special because she, too, was open about being an immigrant and made students feel comfortable around her and met with AB 540 students (AB 540 gives undocumented students in California the right to attend state colleges and universities at in-state rates). Classes were limited because she didn’t qualify for financial aid, so she paid out of pocket.

In 2012, Dianey took on more courses because she started to get tuition paid as a result of Governor Jerry Brown signing AB 130 and 131, the California Dream Act, which provided funding to students that qualified for AB 540. Dianey joined a club at RCC and was shocked to meet other undocumented students because she thought she and her sister were the only ones. She was then introduced to crucial people who connected her to the IEIYC like Maribel Nunez and Maria Rodriguez. Then she attended a retreat with the IEIYC and saw undocumented students getting arrested because they were leading a sit-in and protesting for immigrant rights. Years later, she participated in her first act of civil disobedience and was arrested in Adelanto.  

Photo credit: Fabian Torres, 2017: (Dianey in the center)

Dianey officially joined the IEIYC in 2013 and transferred to UCR. Her experiences with the IEIYC helped make her education better, and she became more motivated because the work she was doing connected with her sociology major. She was planning DACA clinics and doing Know Your Rights presentations, ultimately putting her skills to work.

Some crucial mentors in Dianey’s life have been Russell Juaregui, an immigration lawyer that provides pro-bono services for the IEIYC. Russell helped her and the other women who participated in Adelanto avoid permanent charges on their files that would have jeopardized their DACA applications.

Ultimately, Dianey plans to continue to pursue her education and earn a master’s in public policy to help pass legislation at the state level for health issues and to decrease entanglements between public law enforcement and Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE). She wants to personally have a voice at the table and truly be considered in the policy process to ensure progress for immigrant families through preventative measures.

Dianey helped establish the first IEIYC Undocumented Mentorship Academy, a 10 week program for high school students and first year college students to get involved in their community. The program is currently being led by Alondra Naves-Peralta, the Outreach Coordinator for the IEIYC. Youth learn from workshops about the history of organizing on immigration in the Inland Empire, the intersection of the criminal justice system and detention centers, along with more social issues. Also, students make visits to a local representatives office to lobby and share their stories. After the completion of the program, students receive a $500 scholarship to help with their DACA application and/or school fees.

If you have questions about the IEIYC resources or would like to get involved, check out the organization’s contact page here.

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Alicia Aguayo

Alicia Aguayo

Alicia Aguayo is currently pursuing a B.A. in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. She was born and raised on the West Side of San Bernardino, California and is a daughter of immigrants from México. Since the age of 14, she has been involved with Inland Congregations United for Change, a non-profit and faith-based community organization and has worked on local educational issues in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Alicia’s goal is to help make higher education accessible and equitable for people of color in her community. She is also passionate about environmental justice issues and has advocated for indigenous peoples rights with Creation Justice Ministries, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Alicia has worked on gathering research about the local history of the West Side in San Bernardino and wants to create representation for Latinx and black folks with storytelling.

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