UndocuTribe rallies, speaks out against court cases to end DACA

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Students fill Andrews Hall lobby as members of UndocuTribe speak. Averill Meininger / The Flat Hat

Two years ago, in light of President Donald Trump’s revocation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, UndocuTribe was created at the College of William and Mary. The evening of Tuesday, Nov. 12, UndocuTribe gathered students to reflect and stand in solidarity with recipients of DACA status.

After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding DACA’s legality earlier that day, the vigil aimed to support members of the College with uncertain futures related to the policy.

UndocuTribe is the only immigrants’ rights advocacy group at the College and fosters education and action to support the immigrant and undocumented communities, as well as to address the issues these populations face.

Over 700,000 individuals’ futures are at stake in relation to DACA, a figure that spurred UndocuTribe to organize a gathering in display of their support for the DACA community. President of UndocuTribe Aida Campos ’20 emphasized the importance of the event.

“We received an email that there was going to be a rally in D.C. last week and we knew we probably couldn’t get people in Williamsburg to move out to D.C. for this, especially early in the morning, but we can do something on our campus,” Campos said. “We know for a fact that we have DACA students on our campus, so we wanted to create an event that showed them that their were numbers of people on campus that support them.”

Despite the event being organized relatively quickly, students, faculty and community members filled the lobby of Andrews Hall, and an impressive number voiced their values and experiences. Campos began the event by sharing the importance of being present together in support of one another, and by illustrating the necessity of uplifting undocumented and ‘DACAmented’ communities on campus. 

“This gathering is meant to let people express their emotions about the current situation in this country or about personal experiences they’ve had on this campus,” Campos said.

“This gathering is meant to let people express their emotions about the current situation in this country or about personal experiences they’ve had on this campus,” Campos said. “If there are any moments of silence, it’s okay for us to linger in those; it’s okay to feel uncomfortable in the silence and just to hold space for many DACA students who validly are not here.”

Campos asked that those individuals present with American citizenship recognize their fortuity.

“If you are a citizen in the audience, like me, please acknowledge your privilege; please acknowledge the fact that your life isn’t in limbo right now because of this case,” Campos said.

As Campos stepped back into the crowd, another member of UndocuTribe stepped forward and spoke powerfully about this privilege that many others do not share.

“I’m going to be blunt,” Ashley Hernandez Estrada ’21 said. “To the citizens in this room: People are fighting for the right to stand where we are right now. I don’t mean that to be a guilt-trip; it’s just a fact. People are fighting for the right to be taking up the space that we are at this very moment. And not just that, but for the right to work, to drive and to live peacefully in the place that they know as their home. That is what is at stake here.” 

Many individuals spoke at the event, and brought forward different perspectives and formats of expression. These included anonymously-submitted statements by DACA students, poetry readings and spur-of-the-moment speeches. Many stressed education as a vital tool in supporting immigrant and undocumented communities. 

“I encourage you all to be more involved, to become an ally through UndocuTribe’s UndocuAlly training because at times like these our minds are so clouded with mixed emotions that it’s hard to go through this on your own,” a student with DACA status who came to the United States at age eight Jeaneth Reyes ’20 said.

UndocuAlly training, as Reyes mentioned, is a program offered by UndocuTribe to help students become better allies to their undocumented peers. Director of Latin American Studies at the College professor John Riofrio pointed out that by coming to the gathering, students made an impactful decision.

“I have students telling me about all the stuff that they’ve got going on,” Riofrio said. “And you could be anywhere else, but you chose to come here. I don’t want to dismiss that. I want to make that palpable and real.” 

Riofrio then connected the gathering to Veterans Day, which occurred the day before the UndocuTribe event. He recognized a forgotten population of immigrants with green cards and DACA status who fought for the United States only to later be denied citizenship. 

“Yesterday was Veteran’s Day,” Riofrio said. “By being here, we honor all of those veterans, undocumented, who have served our country. Many of whom were later rejected, some deported. This is not a new story either. We’ve done that with our African American soldiers, we’ve done that with our Chicano soldiers, we’ve done that with our Asian American soldiers. So, a huge part of what we’re doing here is standing up for a certain set of values.”  

Campos spoke one more time at the end of the gathering. She thanked everyone for their attendance and for sharing their experiences. 

“It really means a lot to see all of you here, to hear everything everyone has to offer, to know there are students, faculty and community members here on campus that are willing to publicly state their support,” Campos said. 

As the proceedings of the Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California — the case concerning DACA — continue, UndocuTribe will prioritize creating a community of support for those members of the College community whose futures are uncertain because of the case. In summarizing the purpose of the event, Riofrio ended his speech with a pertinent statement. 

“This is a quiet, potent, powerful declaration of who we are as a people,” Riofrio said. “We don’t separate families from children. We don’t disregard the humanity of someone because of legislative decisions. We support one another. We belong.”

“This is a quiet, potent, powerful declaration of who we are as a people,” Riofrio said. “We don’t separate families from children. We don’t disregard the humanity of someone because of legislative decisions. We support one another. We belong.”

Correction 11/20/19: This article has been corrected to reflect that a quote from John Riofrio had been previously attributed to Jeaneth Reyes ’20.