Around 165 community members participated in Hoyas for Immigrant Rights and UndocuHoyas’ photo campaign in support of the community of undocumented individuals at Georgetown and across the country in Red Square on Thursday.
HIR and UndocuHoyas partnered with United We Dream, the largest immigrant-youth-led organization in the U.S., to organize the photo campaign, which launched in conjunction with annual National Educators Coming Out Day.
HIR Co-Chair Alexis Larios (COL ’18) said it was important for the community to show support for the undocumented student population. According to the group, there are around 20 undocumented students at Georgetown.
“We keep talking about immigration as this idea that nobody really understand the complexities of and sometimes it’s easy to just look at it from a policy stance,” Larios said. “This event really highlights the importance of changing the narrative of immigration.”
An organization administered by the Center of Social Justice, HIR is dedicated to fostering dialogue on immigrant rights. A group of students founded UndocuHoyas in fall 2014 to provide support for undocumented college students.
The event also received support from a variety of campus groups including the College Dean’s Office, the CSJ, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the Georgetown Scholarship Program and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.
While Larios lauded the Georgetown community for responding positively to the photo campaign, she also said there is a lack of awareness about undocumented students at Georgetown.
“These people are in the shadows and the added burdens of being undocumented keeps them there,” Larios said. “We want to show that these people exist, they’re facing struggles and it is our duty to show them that this is a safe space for them and that we support them.”
Hwangchan Yu (COL ’18), an undocumented student at Georgetown and a member of UndocuHoyas, said there are many challenges undocumented students face that the community does not realize, from applying for financial aid to seeking employment to navigating legal documents.
“We were basically part-time students and part-time advocates,” Yu said. “An undocumented student should not be seen differently than any other students. This should be something that a person of authority should have knowledge of, but we couldn’t find that at Georgetown. But this year we made big changes and we found a lot of support.”
Director of the Women’s Center Laura Kovach participated in the photo campaign. Kovach has expressed support for undocumented immigrants in her role at the Women’s Center, which she hopes is a visible resource for undocumented students.
“There is so much concern for some of our undocumented students of ‘Who can I trust?’” Kovach said. “It’s been really critical for a lot of us to stand up and say, ‘We know you are here and we want you to come see us if you need us.’”
In light of the success of the photo campaign, which was shared on Facebook, Yu and Larios said that their organizations will continue to advocate for the rights of undocumented students on campus.
They also said they are grateful for the support of Georgetown educators and students in the campaign, but there is a lot of work left to improve the situations of undocumented students in the community.
“It’s a humanitarian issue,” Larios said. “We are dealing with human beings who are in this country for several reasons and it is unreasonable to expect that we are going to just ignore such a large part of our population … that perpetuates marginalization.”
Kovach said that there are more ways to bridge an understanding between undocumented students and the rest of the community, including providing more support for UndocuHoyas and HIR.
“At a minimum, [this campaign] raises awareness that we have students who are undocumented but may not feel safe talking about it,” Kovach said. “This allows our undocumented students to find safe resources and to be visible themselves and to share their stories.”