This Wednesday, Sept. 13, students gathered into the Sykes auditorium to attend the Defend DACA Learn-In co-sponsored by the Psychology Club, the Political Science department, Students for a Democratic Society and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. The event, whose goal was to help those who attended “learn about DACA and the DREAM act” and “how to contact their state and national government representatives,” was principally organized by Noah Lessner, president of the Psychology Club and Professor Linda Stevenson, interim-dean of the Political Science department.
As the last people filed in through the doors, Lessner took to the stage to dim the lights and welcome the attendants to the Learn-In. The junior psychology and women’s and gender studies major introduced the event by clarifying for the audience that, “DACA stands for ‘deferred action for childhood arrivals’ and it’s a program that protects dreamers. Dreamers are children who became eligible for the program by arriving in the U.S. before [the] age of 16 and have been living in the U.S since June 2007.” He went on to explain that deportations of DACA recipients will begin, “if no law is put into place by March 5, 2018.” Lessner concluded his statements with a quote by Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, who said, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Lessner then invited Stevenson to the stage. The Professor of Latin American studies began her remarks by explaining her eagerness to participate in the event. Her interest, Stevenson said, “[is] a little bit non-academic. It’s that, back when I was in my twenties and out of college and trying to figure out life…I lived in Puerto Vallarta in a neighborhood on the edge of town…Probably 90 percent of the families had somebody, or lots of bodies, in the states and…I met a lot of people who had come and gone and families telling stories about some people who had left for ‘el Norte’ and not come back and couldn’t know what happened to them. Then others who found out that people had died people had been disappeared or kidnapped in the process. There’s a lot of pain around these issues and a lot of concern.”
Stevenson then walked away from the podium to light, “a red candle [to symbolize] the blood spilled around this issue and that it’s not light its very heavy; people experience loss when they migrate.” After waving out one match she said, “at the same time, there are a lot of people who care… about it and the leaders who have created policy around that give us hope, and I hope that the white candle can give you some hope with the actions that you decide to take after this.” Stevenson then lit a white candle placed next to the red one on the stage, and took her seat.
Kevin Carson, president of College Democrats, came up to the stage and reminded the audience that, “our representative is Ryan Costello here in the 6th district, and it’s extremely important that for us as citizens of the United States and members of our congressional district and as a part of West Chester University we need our voice to be heard…because Ryan Costello has agreed with Donald Trump 90 percent of the time.” Carson then said, “Today Politico just released a poll that says that 54 percent of the public believes that there should be a path to citizenship for our Dreamers…and for the past few weeks now there have been people outside [Representative Costello’s] office on Market Street, every Friday, protesting making sure that their voices are heard” The political science major said, “I urge all of you to call Congressman Costello’s Washington office and West Chester office or even go to his website where you can write to him directly. This can spark a change to protect our dreamers.”
A representative from the Students for a Democratic Society also presented at the event to discuss the DACA decision and the need to accurately examine Latin American immigration patterns and their effect on the U.S. They further detailed the importance of incorporating the history of U.S militaristic intervention of Latin American countries in the discussion about Latin American immigration.
The event concluded with Norma Montesino, peer educator at the Center for Women and Gender Equity, responding to West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino’s letter to the students regarding DACA. She requested that Fiorentino, “clarify the intent of [his] message.” Montesino said, “our students want to know how their present and future academic career will be impacted at West Chester University.” Upon further questioning Montesino said, “the resources that President Christopher Fiorentino suggested, in his words, ‘to monitor the situation and seek to support affected students appropriately,’ the Center for International Programs and the Office of Social Equity,’ are neither appropriate nor safe resources for affected students to use.”
She further said that in her capacity as peer educator she, “reached out to these offices for clarification on the services that they are able to provide for affected students,” and the organizations suggested by Fiorentino said, “that they are not legally allowed to assist these students with filing for DACA renewal and are not trained to do so.” She cited the Chair of PASSHE, Cynthia D. Shapira, who advised that, “students from the 14 State System universities affected by this issue can receive a no-cost, confidential consultation with the State System’s immigration counsel, Goldblum & Pollins, by calling (215) 885-3600.”
Aaron Gallant is a third-year student majoring in urban and environmental planning with minors in anthropology and Spanish. He can be reached at AG851503@wcupa.edu.