Students, faculty gather in support of undocumented Illini


Jessica Jutzi

Bruna Cardoso shares her family’s story of coming to America from Brazil at the “Coming Out of the Shadows” event. Students advocated with the intent of fostering education and acceptance of undocumented students.

By Leon Li, Staff Writer

A group of students gathered at Anniversary Plaza on Friday, chanting “Stop deporting! Start supporting!”

The Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students’ Education and Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc led the chant. The two groups hosted the second annual “Coming Out of the Shadows” event.

The event, inspired by a demonstration of the same name in Chicago in 2010, served as a platform for undocumented students to share their stories and advocate support for the undocumented community.

“My wish is that people see us as fellow brethren, dreamers and students, and not as criminals who deserve separation from their families simply for existing without a government-issued document,” said Alvaro Cruz, a Ph.D. student in psychology. 

Cruz is currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which prevents its beneficiaries from deportation and allows them to be eligible for work permits.

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Cruz considers himself lucky. Though he said his undocumented status seemed like “an insurmountable wall” when he started applying to universities.

“It’s hard to convince someone to do well in school when the law tells us that it won’t matter,” said Nancy Ramirez-Blancas, junior in LAS.

“Up, up with education! Down, down with deportation!”

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Renee Romano, who also spoke at the event, said that the University advocates for continued access of undocumented students and is tracking developments in the Student ACCESS Bill (SB 2196).

This bill would allow undocumented students to apply for financial aid opportunities.

“The land grant mission is to make education accessible to everyone, to help everyone create a better life for themselves,” Romano said.

“That’s what we’re all about.”

Romano said in addition to supporting the bill, the University will continue to work with campus units like La Casa Cultural Latina and the Illinois Coalition to provide support for undocumented students.

The Illinois Coalition holds monthly three-hour-long “ally trainings” to educate administrative faculty and students on how to support the undocumented community.

“Undocumented and unafraid!”

More than four people were detained in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Champaign last week.

Despite the event’s theme of courage, many speakers emphasized that the fear of deportation remains a reality.

“I am afraid of seeing my mother locked up in an awful detention center, of seeing my father get arrested and shackled like a criminal,” Ramirez-Blancas said. “I come out of the shadows to represent the most vulnerable population: our families; our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.”

Even for immigrants with DACA status, a new wave of fear came in November with the election of President Donald Trump, who promised on his campaign trail to revoke the Obama-era program.

Under the new administration, a number of DACA beneficiaries around the country have also been detained despite their protection under the program.

“I told my students last semester (about my DACA status) because I wanted them to see that there was someone that may actually lose their job because of the new administration,” Cruz said.

So far, Trump has left the program in place, but the future of DACA remains uncertain.

“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”

In December, the Urbana City Council passed a resolution officially designating Urbana as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants.

According to the resolution, the sanctuary designation means that the city will work “to defend the human rights of immigrants” and “reject any effort to create religious litmus tests or registries of individuals based on religion or ethnicity.”

Although the University rejected petitions to declare the campus as a sanctuary in December, University President Timothy Killeen wrote in a Massmail that the University will “continue to do everything we can within the law to reassure, support and protect our students.”

While the University has not taken ownership of the designation, Jaime Nolasco, member of the Illinois Coalition and senior in LAS, agreed that the campus is doing what it can to defend undocumented students.

“Sanctuary campus is more symbolic than anything. The substance is there, just the symbolic name isn’t,” Nolasco said.

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