SMC club hosts ‘Week of Action’ to explore child immigration policy
Haleigh Ehmsen | Friday, April 24, 2015
La Fuerza, a club that celebrates Latina culture at Saint Mary’s, organized a “Week of Action” on campus this past week to address pressing issues facing the Latin community, sophomore Maria Hernandez, president of the club, said.
Hernandez said the theme of the week was “Into the Unknown: The Immigration Journey of Unaccompanied Minors.” She said she thought this theme was especially important as there was an influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the U.S. from Latin America this past summer.
“This was not the first time unaccompanied minors have come to the United States,” Hernandez said. “This has been and will continue to be an ongoing issue within the immigration sphere.
“This recent crisis has exposed the many issues within the immigration system. These issues range from humanitarian to political issues — which is why La Fuerza decided to cover this particular issue from a variety of perspectives.”
A panel of community members spoke about their experiences with immigration Tuesday, Hernandez said.
Jose Alvarez, a senior at Holy Cross, spoke about the experience of his five-year-old cousin, who traveled from Honduras to Mexico via plane and then was sent across the border with ‘coyotes,’ people who smuggle immigrants into the U.S., Hernandez said.
Hernandez said it was important for students to hear Alvarez’s story because the audience was able to put a face to the week’s theme of immigration and unaccompanied minors.
Alvarez also showed a video of his cousin reuniting with his aunt in the U.S. after the long journey.
After the journey, Jose’s cousin said he just wanted to eat pizza, which helped strengthen the audience’s connection to the child, Hernandez said.
Throughout Alvarez’s story, there was also a great amount of information about how his cousin was treated while in the custody of the immigration system, Hernandez said.
“[Alvarez shared] how his cousin was given one sandwich a day [while in custody] and a thin ‘aluminum foil’ type blanket which did not keep him warm,” she said. “Jose also shared how his cousin had to sign a paper stating he understood his basic rights.”
On Wednesday, Fr. Daniel Groody, associate professor of theology and director of immigration initiatives at the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame, spoke about his experience working on the border of U.S. and Mexico, Hernandez said.
Representatives from Saint Mary’s Republican Club and Democrat Club also engaged in a political debate about immigration Thursday as part of the week’s events, Hernandez said.
Overall, the week was designed for students to understand multiple viewpoints about child immigration because there are many injustices surrounding the issue, Hernandez said.
“There is a lack of intercultural understanding, which is why we wanted to cover a wide variety of perspectives, because many people have different understandings of this issue,” she said. “We find it necessary to offer all perspectives to tackle this issue, to improve the lives of these children and learn what we can do to ensure their situation gets better.”