Immigration rally brings schools together

Sarahy Lopez, News Editor

NEIU’s Undocumented, Resilient and Organized (URO) and North Park University’s Rising Dreamers United held an immigration rally to protest the removal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Oct. 18, joined by high schools Roosevelt and Von Steuben.

“Undocumented, unafraid! Immigrants are welcomed here! All of us, or none of us,” the crowds chanted between speakers.

URO is an organization of undocumented and fellow students dedicated to providing access to resources, leadership opportunities and a network of support for student success in school. URO believes in full education, full access to resources and participation in all programs at NEIU, no matter the students’ immigration status.

Partnered with North Park’s Rising Dreamers United organization, multiple speakers came forward during the rally to share their experiences as undocumented students, to recite poetry and to protest the change in the legislation.

President Donald Trump moved to end the DACA program in early September. About 800,000 young adults qualified for the five-year-old program, allowing them to remain without immediate removal from the country, and giving them the right to work legally.

“I’m working three jobs. I’m a full time student, and I’m staying,” NPU student Sheyla Casianos said. “I’m not going back to Honduras. My parents left three years ago. My dad got deported…why now? Why should I leave? I was only nine years old when I came here.”

“I’ve been here ten years, three of those years without my parents. Three years I’ve been alone in this country with no financial aid, no support. I’m staying, and I’m letting everyone know that no matter what, we have to support each other.”

Roosevelt High School student Amy Alcala talked about her recent encounter with a couple of CTA passengers who were throwing racists remarks about immigrants.

“We are all the same,” Alcala said. “We all have the same rights. I’ve always felt united with everyone, regardless of labels.”

Carolina Vazquez traveled to the U.S. with her mother when she was only five years old. She revealed her difficult experiences of trying to adjust to her new life.

“I feared going to class. I hated English. I couldn’t speak it. Many of you may think that immigrants come to the United States just because, but do you understand how expensive it is to migrate? This is a life decision,” Vazquez said. Her family lived on Maruchan noodles for a while, a cheap meal that was not available to them in their town of Jalisco, Mexico.

“It’s something that drives the individual towards the edge. We are forced to leave everything, families, jobs, a culture behind, just to reintegrate into a place we have never been to before. Undocumented individuals are not only students. What about the refugees? Our parents? Our uncles?” Vazquez said.

“We are here to advocate for our undocumented students but we are also here to listen to them, to follow their lead, and to let them guide this movement because our students have agency and they have power,” NEIU’s Undocumented Student Resources Director Luvia Moreno said.  

“The very thing they’re asking us to do is to not only advocate for them, but for their parents, for their entire families. Because for this country to move forward and succeed, we cannot separate families, and we cannot divide people with a good immigrant versus bad immigrant narrative,” Moreno said.

President Richard Helldobler recently co-signed a higher education letter to Congress that urges lawmakers to pass a legislation that will protect undocumented students.

“Colleges and universities have seen these remarkable people up close, in our classrooms and as our colleagues and friends. Despite the challenges they face, they have made incredible contributions to our country and its economy and security,” the letter to Congress states. “They should continue to be able to do so. If we are unable to protect these Dreamers, we will be shutting the door to an entire generation of individuals who seek to contribute their best to America.”