A small group of students gathered in a Dooley Memorial classroom Tuesday night to discuss immigration and activism in America.
We Are All Americans, sponsored by Lambda Theta Phi Fraternity and the Alliance of Latin American Students (ALAS), focused on dispelling common myths and misconceptions surrounding modern-day immigration. The event hosted two guest speakers, including Maria Mejia, who helps organize events for Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU is a labor union that fights for different workers’ rights, such as Fight for 15, in Miami-Dade and surrounding counties.
An immigrant herself, Mejia spoke about working in Little Havana, where the illegal-immigrant population is high and special volunteer events in the community help residents apply for citizenship. She said that providing people with opportunities to learn about their rights is crucial during an election year.
“It’s important for people to understand what rights they have,” Mejia said. “People only see what is said in the media and by voting, we have the voice to say whether we accept these things or not.”
Students were shown different video clips that include myths and common misconceptions of illegal immigrants – particularly Latinos. Some of the clips included businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and writer and political commentator Ann Coulter stating that illegal immigration is one of the biggest and most important issues facing America. These particular comments were what inspired the event, according to UM senior and event coordinator Rebecca Garcia.
“It’s not a topic that is talked about enough – at least in a very substantive manner,” Garcia said. “It’s an important discussion to have in light of all the racist, xenophobic discussion going around.”
The event also featured a guest speaker, Angie, who shared her story of emigration from her native gang-infected country of Honduras. Through tears and a cracked voice, she recounted the experience of fleeing her country after being threatened with death upon witnessing the kidnapping of her grandmother and aunt. Angie did not disclose her last name because she feared that the Honduran gangs could find her.
“My story is one of millions,” Angie said, fighting back tears.
Angie’s tale struck junior and Lambda Theta Phi brother Eunorick Duncan, who described it as “heartbreaking” and “hard to listen to.”
“To hear someone, who’s an immigrant, having to work their way to be just where you’re at is hard,” Duncan said. “We have to look through their eyes and see what their story really is.”