In an effort to show the human side of the immigration rights debate, the Georgetown University Office of Federal Relations is compiling a short film featuring interviews with three undocumented Georgetown students.
“They talked about what they would like to do if they’re able to stay in the United States,” Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said. “I know a good number of the Dreamers on our campus. They are amazing individuals. They have overcome incredible odds to get to where they are.”
The stories, to be developed by the Office of Communications, will appear on the Office of Federal Relations web page at a currently unspecified date. The three students in the video were chosen because they have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, which protects young people who came to the United States at an early age from deportation.
Kimberly M. (SFS ’15), who wished to keep her last name private because of her immigration status, is one of the students featured in the video. Born in Germany, Kimberly traces her origins back to Kenya.
“I feel like I can talk very comfortably about my experiences, and that’s not something that I really felt in high school,” Kimberly said. “Asking me to participate in the documentary shows that the administration doesn’t just acknowledge that we’re here, but they actually think that our stories and our experiences are worth putting the Georgetown name on.”
In particular, Kimberly said that she was impressed by the university’s active role in advocating for immigrant rights. Last year, Georgetown held the premiere of the film “Dreamers: A True American Story” and sponsored an event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, located at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, during which Kimberly and two other students spoke about their experiences as undocumented youth. According to Kimberly, several university administrators attended the event, despite its distance from campus.
In addition, last month, Georgetown joined the IgnatianSolidarity Network, a Jesuit social justice organization, and 30 Jesuit institutions across the country in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform from the House of Representatives. University President John J. DeGioia has also been active in the effort by signing letters and making several personal phone calls to Congress.
“It’s that little effort that makes you feel like, wow, these people have busy schedules, and the fact that they could take their time … just to hear three students speak about their lives — it means a lot,” Kimberly said.
Citlalli (COL ’16), who wished to be identified only by her first name because of her immigration status, is originally from Mexico and is another undocumented student who participated in the video.Citlalli stressed that the video provided a holistic view of students’ lives.
“It’s about students describing their story and really telling about your particular experience, about what coming to Georgetown has meant for you,” Citlalli said. “Coming to college is about doing something after college, and that’s sort of the question mark, the big mystery to us –– what do we do after college?”
Despite Georgetown’s strong support of immigration reform, Kimberly said that the university did not have up-to-date information for undocumented students, such as that which addressed the proper documentation for studying abroad.
“I’m probably one of the first, if not the first, young people to go abroad through special travel documents that I applied for,” Kimberly said. “Going through that process took a lot of individual initiative because Overseas Studies had no idea what I was talking about.”
Citlalli also stressed the importance of faculty education about undocumented students.
“There is an extreme lack of resources,” Citlalli said. “You don’t know who to talk to if you don’t know the right person.”
Citlalli added that this confusion extends to the application process.
“Students don’t have a way of knowing that they can apply to Georgetown unless they know someone who goes to Georgetown who is undocumented,” she said. “You just have to have an in. And that’s not how admissions should work.”
To address such issues, Kimberly is working with Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services to create a therapy group for students with immigrant backgrounds. In particular, Kimberly pointed to the issue that arises because the DREAM Act only offers amnesty to undocumented children and adults up to 35 years of age.
“It creates a generational gap between those who are already older than 35 and those who aren’t and creates a gap between us and our parents,” Kimberly said. “I can’t imagine feeling a sense of security here knowing that, at any moment, my parents could be deported. I can’t imagine being legal in this country and my parents not being legal.”
To Kimberly, this sense of security is vital.
“I think that what people don’t realize is that it is such a day-to-day struggle,” Kimberly said. “You go to class, you go to work … and then, in the back of your mind, you know that at any moment your family could be separated. You know that at any moment, your parents could be gone.”
Kimberly emphasized the importance of university support in the face of the challenges of passing immigration reform that would address such issues.
“There’s not much that we can do right now to change our situation. We can take as many opportunities as we can, but there’s not much that we or anyone else can do except for Congress,” Kimberly said. “The fact that they support us just means a lot.”
Citlalli agreed, adding that the video touches on the real-life implications of immigration reform efforts.
“It’s about how there are a lot of policy decisions that really can ultimately change your life,” Citlalli said.
The third student featured in the film did not wish to comment for this story.