Whether you are beginning your first year at Georgetown University or your last, welcome to the Hilltop for another academic year!
On my Georgetown journey, I have come to better understand my salient identities and how I can advocate for myself and my community. Over the last two years, I have become increasingly comfortable sharing my story as an undocumented student. After the 2016 presidential election, I felt defeated not knowing what would happen to key immigration protections that allowed immigrants like me to come out of the shadows. In response to this uncertainty, I reflected on how I could share my story to transform the hearts and minds of people who believe differently than I do about immigrants’ rights.
Being surrounded by a “community in diversity” where students strive to be “people for others” helped me in this process. I have found support in the Georgetown community’s willingness to come together and to learn from one another.
In partnership with the university, I was able to share my story through different platforms: lending my narrative to a speech delivered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), writing opinion pieces for The Hoya and the Georgetown Voice, and speaking and participating at various events, including at a university campaign raising awareness about the contributions of undocumented students. These efforts, along with the arduous work of past generations of undocumented Hoyas and the crucial allyship and support of several campus partners, contributed to dialogue and also led the university to establish support systems for undocumented Georgetown students. The university hired a full-time associate director for undocumented student services to guide and advise undocumented students, launched the website undocumented.georgetown.edu to provide a space for relevant information and established a partnership with Catholic Charities to assist students with legal matters.
Georgetown’s progress in supporting my community gives me confidence in the strength of allyship, especially among students who have not necessarily been directly affected by nativist immigration policies but who continue to raise concern for their vulnerable peers. Just last year, various groups organized in support of advocating for the Dream Act of 2017, a piece of legislation seeking to bring permanent protections for young undocumented people. Thousands of Georgetown students participated in this advocacy effort. Hoyas wrote letters and called their members of Congress; many even visited Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of their undocumented peers. This type of activism meets the ideals Georgetown strives for — supporting our most vulnerable.
Coming together as a community in such an uncertain time is emblematic of the beauty of being at Georgetown. Nevertheless, it is important, as our university’s values call on us to do, that we continue striving to be a community in diversity and people for others. Recently, Georgetown alumni such as Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (SFS ’94) have strayed from these core values. Nielsen has been at the heart of the Trump administration’s inhumane family separation policies. She proudly advocates for cruel measures aimed at deterring and detaining immigrants who come to the United States fleeing persecution and violence.
To avoid developing into the antithesis of what it means to be a Hoya, it is imperative we understand we can be the difference we want to see in the world, but only if we begin our journey now. As such, I invite you to take full advantage of being in an educational community where there are students from all walks of life. There are spaces like the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access eager to bring students together to learn and engage with one another. Attend events hosted by this and other organizations to be exposed to different experiences. Outside of these spaces, it is important you understand your positionality. Think long and hard about your privileged identities and use your privilege to support your peers. Furthermore, be educated on issues. Do your research. Stay informed. Your time here will be transformative only if you want it to. From these kinds of efforts, you will build your capacities for empathy and kindness.
The support I have seen in my time here truly comes from our community, but it requires buy-in from each of us. I look forward to a great academic year, to the progress we will continue to make together, and to the myriad learning experiences we will have as a united community —experiences that we will be able to carry with us toward the future. Hoya Saxa!
Luis Gonzalez is a senior in the College.