by Cindy Pena
President Donald Trump’s promise for immigration reform is becoming a reality. Its impact on Connecticut immigrants are grave, according to Joanne Lewis, managing attorney at Connecticut Legal Services.
“For the most part, the immigration orders have created a lot of fear and uncertainty, which is maybe part of what they were designed to do,” said Lewis. “A lot of people are starting to be afraid to leave their houses, a lot of kids are afraid to go to school because they don’t know if mommy and daddy are going to be there when they get home. They don’t know what to do because they are afraid that they are going to become targets.”
The new immigration orders have also impacted students at Central Connecticut State University, both directly and indirectly. Christopher Marinelli, chair of the Social Justice Committee of the Student Government Association, is witnessing the repercussions of it as he works with undocumented students.
“It definitely has a significant impact on the students. When you have this rhetoric coming from the president and the administration and then you actually see actual action take place. People are genuinely afraid to talk out about these issues,” said Marinelli. “It’s actually scary.”
The SJC strives to protect undocumented students on campus. Members of the SJC began a lobbying effort for the Afford to Dream Bill.
The House Bill 7000 and Senate Bill 17 make up the Afford to Dream Bill. This state legislation would allow undocumented “dreamers” to use institutional aid that they already help finance by paying tuition. Undocumented students cannot use this aid because they do not have a social security number that is required to fill out the financial aid application.
Lewis, who has given legal advice to students, is an advocate for the bill.
“I think it’s basic fairness that these students pay into this pool and they are not, unlike other students, eligible for other assistance. So they should be eligible to get money out of this pool,” said Lewis.
Marinelli and other members of the SJC go to the capital building and meet with state legislatures to push for this Senate and House bill.
Shortly after Trump passed Executive Order 13767, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” the SJC organized a rally “to stand in solidarity with undocumented students, those protected by DACA and our fellow Muslim students.” The SJC mentioned the two bills in the rally that was held on Feb. 2.
“The rally was more to get passion and motivation and people charged up and aware,” said Marinelli. “So we had the rally and the objective was to present these two bills.”
Besides the SJC efforts, there are other events hosted at CCSU that educate and provide support for immigrants. The panel held on April 11 with Veronika Mendoza sparked conversations with the community and students on the impact of the Trump administration to Latin American immigrants.
“It’s important in the university and in the young generation that there is a reflection on this xenophobia that’s growing in the world and what this means for humanity,” said Mendoza, leader of the “Nuevo Peru” political party and the presidential candidate for Peru in 2016. “It’s a threat to human rights. We should move forward towards unity, not backwards.”
Her political movement, Nuevo Peru, strives to eradicate human rights violations and discrimination in the undocumented community in Latin America and the United States. Therefore, immigration policy is an important issue for her.
“Being Peruvian, being Latin American, I identify myself with them. I see them as my brothers and sisters. I am worried on what could happen to them so I want to listen and hear from them directly. I want to know what I can do from Peru and from Latin America to help them,” said Mendoza. “It’s important in these moments that not just in the United States, but also in Latin American communities that we stand together in solidarity and support immigrants.”
Eduardo Gonzalez, Consulate General from Peru, also emphasized this mission.
“We are doing all we can to stay in touch with the local authorities of every state and federal government in embassy at Washington D.C.,” said Gonzalez. “You are not alone, we are working very hard for you.”
Ultimately, these events and groups on campus’ main goal is to educate the students. Marinelli emphasized how education can create solidarity in diversity at CCSU.
“A big thing is misinformation. A lot of apathy for undocumented student comes with a lack of knowledge on what it means to be undocumented and to be under DACA. A lot of people don’t understand that there is not a pathway to citizenship for the students, unless you join the military,” said Marinelli. “By raising awareness and having these events, we can get the conversations going so people know the different complexities on this faction of the population.”