Student attends national conference on immigration
Julianna McKenna | Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Saint Mary’s senior Megan Uekert traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, to attend a Define American Immigration Conference this past weekend. [Editor’s Note: Uekert is a former News Writer for The Observer.]
Define American is a new organization on campus designed to engage the College community about pertinent issues in America today. In an email, Uekert said her decision to attend this conference was because she wanted a way to connect with leaders from other campuses.
“I decided to attend in order to connect with other chapter leaders from across the nation to share ideas and learn about strategies that have worked well on other campuses,” she said.
Uekert said this weekend impacted her greatly and she was able to learn more and engage in discussions about what it really means to be American.
“It was also open to anyone who wanted to learn more about the organization and even just the questions ‘What does it mean to be American?’ and ‘How do you define it?’” she said. “The conference had a big emphasis on understanding immigration as an intersectional issue as well as American identity.”
Throughout the conference, Uekert also helped collaborate on a mission pledge for the organization. She said it was inspiring to be a part of, and the pledge statement highlights that being American is about togetherness, not separateness.
“The mission reads, ‘Together, we stand united against bigotry, hatred and exploitation. Together, we are building a nation guided by equity, compassion and justice. Together, we all Define American,’” she said.
Uekert stressed the importance of why this issue is applicable to everyone in this community.
“We are all American. Papers or no papers, we are Belles, we are students and we are all American,” she said. “Immigration has not affected me personally as I was born in the United States, as were my parents and even their grandparents, but just because an issue doesn’t affect you directly doesn’t mean it’s not important,” Uekert said.
She said in order to understand others and the facts of immigration, it is essential to listen and be open to hearing the stories of others.
“It is also so important to listen and share stories because we all have different ones. Sharing stories creates empathy,” she said. “Stories turn the facts and statistics into real people that you can relate to. The issues then become less robotic and more serious and human.”
Uekert said it is important to make your voice heard and creating a supportive community on campus.
“At the end of the day, we cannot be Saint Mary’s if we do not support and respect each other,” Uekert said. “If we exclude our undocumented Belles and make them feel unwelcome, then we are not Saint Mary’s.”