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ComUNIDAD to foster immigration discussion

| Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy (SCIA) will host the first ever ComUNIDAD, an immigration conference Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, which will focus on Latino immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), new immigration laws and policies and local immigration services.

“Being from Arizona, a border state, where the topic of immigration has always been on the forefront, I became interested in empowering the Latino community,” Jessica Pedroza, a sophomore SCIA Officer said.

Senior Juan Rangel, a Latino Studies major and the founder of SCIA, said the club initially had the idea for the conference in April and planned it over the summer.

Rangel said he talked with La Casa de Amistad, a charitable organization in South Bend that provides services for Hispanic populations and is one of the sponsors of ComUNIDAD, about the idea and also consulted one of his professors.

The other sponsors of ComUNIDAD include the Institute for Latino Studies, Center for Social Concerns, Campus Ministry, Latino Honors Society, Spanish Club, Latino Student Alliance, College Democrats, and the Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame, Pedroza said.

“[The sponsors] have mostly supported us financially,” Pedroza said. “[We] have invited their members to volunteer or attend the conference. We appreciate … their contributions in making this conference a reality.”

“The major task [in the preparation process] is promotion,” Rangel said. “It is really hard to push this event among local community members. It is brand new. People are a little uneasy to come to campus as it is.”

ComUNIDAD will provide free food and free day care for kids. Transportation will also be available from St. Adalbert Parish starting at 9 a.m. and back on the day of the event.

Rangel said he expects about 100 people to come, but it is hard to obtain an accurate number right now.

“There is no need to register, but Facebook RSVPs help us get some idea about how many people will attend,” Pedroza said.

The first event of the conference, a keynote panel discussion, will feature director of the Institute for Latino Studies Tim Matovina, Saint Mary’s senior Dara Marquez, Holy Cross College junior Evelyn Gonzalez and immigrant advocate Jesusa Rivera.

Rangel and Pedroza said the event will also include an entertainment session during the lunch break with performances from Mariachi ND, Coro Primavera de Nuestra Señora and Ballet Folklorico Azul Y Oro.

“The most distinctive feature of ComUNIDAD I’d recommend to other people would be the community aspect we are trying to foster between Notre Dame students and community members,” Pedroza said, “All Sunday we will be learning together, eating together, watching performances and going to Mass together. And it will all be in English and Spanish.

“The conference will also serve as a way to inform students about what’s going on with immigration. Most of all, though, I believe it’s about creating ‘comunidad’ and caring about one another, social justice and treating everyone with human dignity regardless of documentation”

Rangel said many of the staff members on the preparation committee for the event are sophomores and juniors, and he hopes to see the event eventually become one of the traditions in Notre Dame.

“SCIA in its first couple of years of being an official club has really been instrumental in bringing the immigration issue to light on campus,” Pedroza said, “ComUNIDAD is our biggest event this semester, and next semester, we are excited about hosting another Immigration week, which includes prayer, performances, debates and more.”

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