In its inaugural UndocuWeek from April 2 to April 7, student advocacy group UndocuHoyas plans to host various public discussions and film screenings highlighting the experiences of both the on-campus and nationwide undocumented community.
The events are co-sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access and Georgetown Scholarship Program, and mark the first anniversary of the Undocumented Student Resources website, launched April 7, 2016.
Undocumented Students Adviser Arelis Palacios said UndocuWeek seeks to educate the community about the strength and courage of undocumented students.
“It’s an educational series designed to raise awareness about these topics to the broader campus community, and also a great opportunity to showcase the successes and resilience of our students and their advocacy,” Palacios wrote in an e-mail to The Hoya.
The week kicks off against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s White House, which has drawn attention to immigrants without authorization through inflammatory statements and executive policies.
Trump said in his June 15, 2015 campaign launch speech that Mexican immigrants were “rapists,” and he has pledged to build a border wall with Mexico during his administration at the cost of the Mexican government.
Trump’s latest decree is Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which blocks so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to comply with immigration enforcement measures from receiving federal grants. The order garnered criticism and legal challenges from the city and county of San Francisco and the Massachusetts cities of Chelsea and Lawrence.
Mizraim Belman Guerrero (SFS ’20) said UndocuWeek could serve to dispel stereotypes and misinformation about all immigrants, not just those without documentation.
“We really want to shift that national narrative to show that immigrants are here and undocumented students are here and there is really a lot of misinformation out there,” Belman Guerrero said. “These stories are often very powerful and really get to the heart of why people immigrate. It’s not because people come to the United States and want to take advantage of everything — it is because of hardships people go through that force people to migrate.”
Georgetown University Student Association President Kamar Mack (COL ’19) and Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’18) said UndocuWeek supports Georgetown’s goals of creating an open and compassionate community.
“Our administration is committed to supporting and standing with our fellow members of the Georgetown community,” Mack and Andino wrote in an email to The Hoya. “UndocuWeek embodies this principle through the inclusive and meaningful dialogues it fosters, and we are excited for its resounding success next week. GUSA is proud to support this initiative and look forward to working with more passionate student groups to advance similar initiatives that enhance the Georgetown experience for students from every walk of life.”
Considering the current national discourse around immigration, Palacios said it is more important than ever to reassure undocumented students that they have a right to an education at Georgetown.
“We believe that it’s important given the current climate of uncertainty for immigrant populations across the U.S.,” Palacios said. “As a Jesuit institution, we believe that all students should have the right towards educational attainment, regardless of immigration status.”
Guerrero said he has mostly encountered positive interactions with members of the Georgetown community.
“I definitely think that, for the most part, everyone that I have come in contact with has been very supportive. The university as a whole is really doing things that other universities aren’t,” Belman Guerrero said.
Andino said her previous experience as the GUSA Undocumented Student Inclusivity Chair taught her the importance of recognizing the often-invisible undocumented population at Georgetown.
“It’s important because undocumented students are a student population that not many people know exist on campus, so it’s a chance for students to learn about a student population that they may not know about,” Andino said in an interview with The Hoya. “Obviously there’s still a lot to do, but it’s a chance for them to have their voices heard.”
Palacios said educators have a special duty to focus on students’ education, not on political discourse.
“As educators, our support of undocumented students is apolitical,” Palacios said. “GU has had policies in place for supporting undocumented students for well over a decade, and we continue to affirm GU as a culturally pluralistic environment where individuals of all backgrounds can thrive and be successful.”
Andino said students who may be less knowledgeable about undocumented students’ issues should bring to the UndocuWeek events an open-minded, respectful attitude that acknowledges all students’ humanity.
“If a student doesn’t know anyone who is undocumented or doesn’t know a lot about the issue, just being open-minded, realizing that these students are their peers and as a result we have to be respectful of one another and learning about the unique challenges that undocumented students face that other students may take for granted,” Andino said. “Listening goes a long way.”
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