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Define American club hosts ‘Woke Party’ to educate students

| Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Define American, a Saint Mary’s organization dedicated to educating students about immigration and other political issues, will host a “Woke Party” on Wednesday to inform students about immigration and ways they can take action.

Club president and senior Megan Uekert said the idea for a Woke Party emerged from previous club meetings. [Editor’s Note: Uekert is a former News Writer for The Observer.]

“We learned from our last meeting that there are many people out there who want to be a part of this cause but do not know much about immigration in the United States,” she said. “We believe that before we educate others on this issue, we must educate ourselves first. We encourage everyone who is unfamiliar with immigration processes to come and join us for the hour-long showing.”

Those who attend the party will learn more about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and how immigration impacts lives, Uekert said.

“Students will get informed about how incredibly difficult it is to become an American citizen, especially if you were brought here as a child,” she said. “They will also learn about the struggles of being an undocumented American.”

The event will include a showing of the documentary “Documented.” The film’s director, Jose Vargas, spoke at the College last semester about immigration and is the founder of the national Define American organization. 

“We selected this documentary because it is a documentary about a personal story and struggle with the U.S. immigration system,” Uekert said.

The documentary shows Vargas’ own personal journey as an undocumented American. Due to his immigration status, he was unable to visit his mother for over 20 years, Define American member Teresa Brickey said. 

“When DACA was passed, [Vargas] didn’t qualify,” Brickey said. “The documentary isn’t about him finding asylum or legal documentation, but instead how different groups have formed to be advocates for immigrants and undocumented immigrants.”

The documentary also looks at how parents of immigrant children reacted to DACA.

“Even when DACA was passed, the documentary showed a meeting of parents of Dreamers,“ Brickey said. “They were happy for them, but it was bittersweet because they couldn’t get documented.”

Uekert, who is also a member of the Student Diversity Board, said she became involved with Define American due to her personal passion for immigration advocacy.

“Define American is important to me because it questions American identity and promotes education of topics surrounding immigration — a topic that there are a lot of myths about,” she said.

Uekert said students have a responsibility to educate themselves. This will help them to support other students and friends who are facing challenges as a result of their family’s immigration status.

“If we are going to be here and be inclusive and lift up our fellow Belles and Americans and create a strong society, we have to accept everyone here as equally American and as equally accepted,” she said. “I think students should also know what DACA is because it impacts many fellow students and is commonly misunderstood.”

 All people have the same wants and needs, and nobody is less of a person because of their citizenship status, Uekert said.

“Am I more deserving of American citizenship than an undocumented American? We want the same things in life, right? Why do I get these opportunities because I happen to be born here?” she said. “America is the only home most DACA recipients know, as they came here so young. Imagine the stress of finals and school with the added stress of being deported from your home and your country. “

Ultimately, Uekert said one of the most important responsibilities of documented students is to educate themselves. This can help them avoid making offensive or insensitive remarks, she said.

“Being informed is so important because I hear so many people say, ‘Why don’t they get in line?’” she said. “There is no line. Or even calling someone an ‘illegal’ because they committed a civil offense. We don’t call drunk drivers illegals. Calling a person illegal is dehumanizing.” 

The Woke Party will take place Wednesday at 10 p.m. in Spes Unica Hall.

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