By Alexandra Gomes
Students, faculty and administrators gathered in front of the McCarthy Center Friday afternoon to show their support for immigrants the day after national immigrant strike day.
The rally was organized by junior Estefany Gonzalez, sophomore Rackeley Guzman and sociology professor Patricia Sànchez-Connally.
Gonzalez said the main goal of the rally was to show support and solidarity for all immigrants.
She added, “We’re a very diverse community. ... We’d just like to create a space where everyone can feel comfortable.”
Many students and faculty spoke during the rally and shared their stories.
Business professor Sandra Rahman shared her family’s story. She said her great grandparents
immigrated to the United States from Europe in 1908. Her grandmother married an immigrant from Greece. Her mother married an immigrant from Canada, her father. Rahman herself married an immigrant from Bangladesh, and her daughter will marry an immigrant from Germany.
“We all have a story of how we arrived in this country. Some of us were born here, and some of us traveled from afar. Some came willingly, and some were forced without consent. Some came as innocent children under the love and care of their parents’ unwavering search for a job and stability. Some were seeking the opportunity to achieve a personal and professional triumph and some were escaping the tyranny, brutality and scourge of man’s inhumanity to man,” she said.
“The base of the Statue of Liberty reads, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Yes, that is my America. The America that lends a hand to help others in need,” she said.
She added America benefits from the contributions of immigrants.
She said, according to the Obama administration’s website, immigrants are more likely to create their own jobs. They start businesses and create jobs for many other American workers.
Senior Teofilo Barbalho spoke of his parents’ immigration from Brazil 23 years ago.
“Within those 23 years I’ve seen two uncles and one cousin get deported just because they wanted to build a better life here. They were just minding their business, and yeah, they may not have come in the right way, but they were contributing to the community, and they just wanted to have a better life,” he said.
Junior Dana Lobad told the crowd about her parents’ immigration from Kuwait.
“I’ve just been thinking lately, what if they didn’t come and they wanted to come 25 years later, but they lived in Syria? Would I even be here in the future?” she asked. “It just makes me think.”
President F. Javier Cevallos, an immigrant from Ecuador, also addressed the crowd, and said of America, “Everyone here is an immigrant, at some point. And yet, we have always been a nation that opposes immigration.”
He recalled the anti-Chinese immigration laws, the Know-Nothing party of the 1840s and the 1863 anti-Irish riots in New York.
“This is a paradox – a nation that depends on immigrants and yet opposes immigration. We’re just going through one more of those cycles. We have to stay united and keep fighting for the rights of all people to have a decent life – a better life and a better future,” he said.
“Lets keep supporting everybody, and, in particular, let’s support our DACA students,” he added.
After the rally, the crowd made their way to the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) for a debriefing. On their way, the crowd chanted, “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”
In the CIE, more students, faculty and administrators shared their stories and fears about their
Gonzalez, who immigrated here from Venezuela six years ago, said she is always worried if she is going to be the “next one.
“There are so many things that go through your mind when you are an immigrant yourself,” she said. “I know people who are scared of what’s going to happen to them because they’re under DACA. They’ve lived their whole life here and now they might be deported.”
A graduate student, who is a DACA immigrant from Brazil, shared her fears.
“My husband and I were both brought here as children. He actually didn’t qualify for DACA because of a year difference,” she said.
“I think this is a very uncertain time for both of us. We have a four-year-old daughter,” she said, tearing up. “I’m just glad you guys are here.”
Sociology professor Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz talked about his status as an immigrant from Puerto Rico.
He said while Puerto Ricans are born as U.S. citizens, that citizenship comes at a “high cost.”
The U.S. was an “occupying force” in Puerto Rico, according to Guadalupe-Diaz, and many Puerto Ricans who wanted the island to be an independent country were “murdered” by the U.S.
“So, it’s kind of Catch-22,” he said. “It’s great to have citizenship, and yet, I wanted to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. has been a terrorizing, violent colonial presence on that island for a very long time.”
He said his father, like many other immigrants, was recruited to come to the states.
“Immigrants make this work. We don’t have enough of our own skills as native-born citizens,” he said.
“We need immigrants for industry. We need their creativity. We need their input. We need their ideas. It’s what makes this country great,” he said.
Guadalupe-Diaz said there are many Americans who wonder what the country “owes” to refugees and why the United States should be “the open door.”
“We should be the open door primarily because we are responsible for destabilizing many regions all over the world,” he said. “If you’re going to be the world’s police, then at the very least, you can pick up after your own mess, right?”
Lina Rincón, a sociology professor and immigrant from Columbia, said she came here not only for opportunities, but also because of the Columbian civil war.
“I love this country, and when I talk about ‘us,’ I talk about us as Americans, because I’m Columbian and American,” she said.
Luisanna Castillo, a junior, spoke about her family’s immigration from the Dominican Republic to Whitinsville, Massachusetts.
“My family was one of probably five families of color in the whole town,” she said.
Those families all lived together in a five-bedroom house, with each family living together in one room, she said.
“I just saw how hard my family worked and everything they did, and it hurts to hear when people say immigrants don’t work hard,” she said.
She said events such as the rally give her hope.
Gonzalez said, “Immigrants get called minorities, but are we really, though? Look at this. Everyone here at least knows someone or is related to someone who is not from here. That’s huge.”
She added, “Just being here right now – I feel part of a change.”