VIEWPOINT: Sharing in Resilience, Solidarity

JESUS RODRIGUEZ/THE HOYA

JESUS RODRIGUEZ/THE HOYA

Stories are power. Our journeys at Georgetown University have been marked by moments of bravery, resiliency and solidarity. As we graduate, we leave behind networks of people who have shared their struggles with us and who have listened to ours. We are connected through a shared bond of trust, which transcends mental borders and allows us to see and understand each other.

However, the power of stories lies not only in making others feel loved and welcomed, but also in our actions that reaffirm their experiences. Reflecting on my time at Georgetown, I feel lucky to be able to recall countless times when my Hoya family showed love for me and resisted in solidarity with me. Those manifestations of love allowed me to proudly say that I am undocumented and unapologetically fight for a better Georgetown for future UndocuHoyas.

Undocumented

Some argue that “undocumented” is a temporary civil status and not an identity. But being undocumented has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of who I am as a person. It has also shaped my academic interests and fueled my interest in immigrant-related advocacy. A piece of paper does not define me. Having it does not define you. It is merely another way to divide and dehumanize people. It has as much power as we give it.

Being undocumented does not mean that our existence is not documented. We are present. Our stories are recorded daily, reflected in the daughter who fought for her parents’ right to be here and the mother who crossed borders so that her children could have a better chance at success. These are narratives of resiliency. At Georgetown, we are Hoyas for others: In this spirit, we should uplift the experiences of the undocumented community and support immigrant rights. No human being is illegal.

Unafraid

Being unafraid does not mean that I am not fearful. Being unafraid is a state of mind, pushing me out of the shadows and allowing me to not let fear rule my life. Being unafraid enables me to share my story and speak out for immigrant rights despite the harsh realities that come from outing myself. Being unafraid empowered me to continue the fight for equity for UndocuHoyas.

Becoming unafraid is a process: It requires both a level of comfort with vulnerability and people who are willing to listen. I am grateful to Georgetown, and the people here, for providing me with a brave space to be unafraid. I became unafraid at Georgetown because I was loved, heard and affirmed. I was loved by my friends and mentors who always stood by me. I was heard by my fellow Hoyas and professors as I shared my story. I was affirmed by faculty and staff who joined in the process to make Georgetown a more inclusive space for undocumented students. As I leave Georgetown, I hope that this brave space remains so that other UndocuHoyas can thrive and be unafraid.

Unapologetic

As my academic journey comes to an end, I will remain unapologetic in highlighting that my narrative is not the norm. I recognize that there are thousands of undocumented students who do not graduate from high school and countless more who are unable to pursue higher education — their voices and struggles matter.

I am unapologetic in acknowledging that my experience these past four years would be different if it were not for other undocumented students, friends, allies and mentors — like Cinthya Salazar, a former liaison between administrators and students without documentation — who paved the way for me to walk across the stage and receive my diploma. I am an unapologetic undocumented Mexicana from East Los Angeles who, as of tomorrow, will be a Georgetown alumna with an aching fire to make a difference. I will unapologetically continue to fight for immigrant communities, for my friends and for my family. We are here to stay.

I have shared my narrative over and over again throughout the years; this vulnerability has allowed me to build bridges with the institution and my fellow Hoyas. After the results of the 2016 election, I felt lost. But not once did I feel alone. In a moment when I worried for my family, friends and community, my fellow Hoyas made me feel welcomed. In the weeks that followed, I witnessed the power of belonging to a community like Georgetown — alumni, students, faculty and staff came together to ensure the safety and well-being of students.

“Together in unity we walk in solidarity. Georgetown is our sanctuary, home and a community,” we sang to the tune of “Ode to Joy” as, on Dec. 2, we marched to Healy Hall to deliver an open letter to the President’s Office; the letter called on the university to protect the rights and dignity of all Georgetown students, including those without documentation. I will carry with me moments of solidarity like this beyond Georgetown as a reminder of the love and resiliency that exists within people. I invite you to do the same.

Clara Mejía Orta is a senior in the College.

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