UNC students united and outraged over DACA announcement

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UNC senior Rubi Franco Quiroz speaks at the DACA in Crisis event Monday evening, a panel discussion comprised of lawyers, activists and students about how to support the undocumented and DACAmented community.

As the political climate in both the United States and the University becomes more volatile, UNC students are continuing to fight for their beliefs. 

Last night a group of UNC students, bound by nothing except a common school and a passion for the rights of undocumented Americans, held a panel to discuss the consequences of the Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

“We’re not an organization,” said Barbara Sostaita, the event’s head organizer and moderator of the discussion. “We’re individuals.”

The auditorium in the FedEx Global Education Center was nearly full. Students, professors and administrators came out to listen and learn from the panelists about what the policy change might mean for the future. 

Concerned students arranged the grassroots-style event to ease the stress felt by their peers and UNC workers who may face blowback from the administration’s decision. One critical goal for the organizers of the panel is to establish safe spaces for students that feel uncomfortable or in danger, or need someone to talk to.  

UNC administration was put on the spot in the early stages of discourse — Ronald Strauss, executive vice provost and chief international officer for UNC — was a panel member and fielded one of Sostaita’s first questions.

She referenced a mass email from Chancellor Carol Folt addressing DACA, which said, “We will be working closely with UNC General Administration and others to more fully understand yesterday’s announcement by the President and will keep you updated.” 

“We were hoping that you can update us right now,” Sostaita said. 

Strauss admitted the statement was hastily thrown together in a coffee shop in London, where he and his colleagues learned of the news, but nevertheless assured the audience that the University stood with its workers and students. 

“It was a statement of solidarity and thought,” he said.

The administration will meet with students next Friday to discuss the inclusion of safe spaces on campus at the request of the panel’s organizers.

The elimination of the DACA program will force the more than 27,000 North Carolinians who benefit from it to explore other options.

Two of the panelists, Raul Pinto and Yesenia Polanco-Galdamez, are immigration attorneys. They talked to the audience about ways undocumented Americans and their families can reduce their risk of deportation. 

The final two members of the panel, UNC alum Emilio Vicente and senior Rubi Quiroz, appealed to the crowd’s emotions by offering stories of the adversity they faced growing up as undocumented Americans. They framed the issue as humanitarian rather than political. 

“We are human beings first and foremost,” Vicente said. 

Quiroz tried to convey the anxiety she and students in her position cope with. As someone who benefits from DACA, she is especially nervous about the road ahead.

“It’s almost like your expiration date — you won’t be able to move forward past that,” Quiroz said.

 Pinto, one of the immigration attorneys, then jumped into the conversation.

 “No one in this country who has been working, who has been going to school, who has been paying taxes, should have an expiration date,” he said. 

The crowd applauded in agreement in what was perhaps the panel’s most poignant moment. 

A Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education, Lucia Mock, was particularly enraged at the Trump administration’s decision.

“It's a fundamental betrayal of the trust that these young people have put in our government and in our future,” she said. “It’s cruelty personified.”

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