Speak Up, Speak Out on Immigrant Rights

(From The Campus Lantern – November 12th, 2015)

On Thursday, November 5th at 3pm, a speak out to honor the spirit and resiliency of the immigrant community was held in the Student Center Lobby. The event, which was called Speak Up, Speak Out on Immigrant Rights, was organized by Eastern senior and Women’s Center Student Ambassador Erika Sanchez as well as sophomore Amber Domond.

Sanchez introduced the first speaker of the event, Dr. Elsa Nunez. In her speech, she reflected upon her family;s experience coming to the United States from Puerto Rico. Dr. Nunez also highlighted the importance of deferred action for the childhood arrival program, urging that all students deserve merit scholarships.

Throughout the rest of the speak out, representatives from organizations such as Connecticut Students For a Dream (C4D), the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, and United Action Connecticut shared their unique and moving stories.

Intersectionality is an important aspect of any social movement, including immigrant rights. At the event, Varun Khattar from the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project spoke about the erasure of queer and trans individuals in the immigrant rights movement. In a call to action, Khattar asked the crowd to not focus their activist efforts only on gifted and privileged communities, but to also remember the homeless, HIV positive youth, sex workers, and addicts.

Another speaker, Ainslya Charlton, who is part of C4D, spoke on the intersections between gender, race, and immigration status. She talked about her experiences as a woman of color from Jamaica, and how she worked to earn the top GPA in her high school. Still, when she was applying for college she was not eligible for scholarships. Despite financial and institutional setbacks, Charlton is currently a Posse Scholar at Trinity College in Hartford.

Another one of the students from C4D started off her speech confidently: “I am undocumented and I am unashamed.” She spoke about her experiences as the only undocumented Latina in her predominately white high school. She also lamented on her experiences in how vulnerable undocumented women are in reporting sexual assault. When she was assaulted at a young age, her family felt they could not report the crime due to the fear of being deported.

Towards the end of the event, the crowd and organizers took part in compelling chants. Powerful phrases such as, “Education is a right, that is why we have to fight!”, “I am somebody and I deserve full equality right here, right now!”, and “Not one more deportation!” were chanted throughout the lobby of the Student Center.

The event ended with an open mic portion in which attendees were encouraged to share their own experiences. A poetry teacher from Windham High School who had brought her class to the event delivered a moving piece that ended in solidarity with, “I am speak, up speak out on immigrant rights… I am Eastern Connecticut State University.”

“This is not the end, this is just the beginning,” Sanchez ended the speak out. If attendees took anything from the event, it was the importance of using their voices to get involved in social movements.

Overall, the speak out discussed the obstacles and barriers that immigrant students and families face as well as legitimizing and humanizing their stories and experiences. It is important and necessary to continue this dialogue at Eastern. Undocumented students are your classmates, friends, RA’s, and co-workers.

To get involved in the movement, contact Erika Sanchez at sancheze@my.easternct.edu or C4D at info@ct4adream.org.