CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, this article incorrectly stated a source's status at UNC. Jane Violette is a senior. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
Commencement speaker Paul Cuadros spoke about his experience as the son of immigrants in his speech at UNC's winter commencement ceremony Sunday.
“Being an American has nothing to do with papers and everything to do with spirit,” he said.
Cuadros, an associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism and the founder of the Carolina Latino/a Collaborative, said his book, "A Home on the Field," is about a Latino-dominated soccer team in a town with a large population of Latino immigrants and one player, named Indio, who was the star player and an illegal immigrant.
“It is now 2004, November, and I’m walking out onto a lush green field at WakeMed Soccer Park,” Cuadros said. “There are hundreds of people cheering behind me, banners snap in the air, drums bang. In front, a group of boys are celebrating. They’re dressed in white, almost all are from Mexico, some from Central America, a few were born here, many are here illegally.”
Cuadros said President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program allowing immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children to be protected from deportation and one that Indio benefitted from.
“Think about that for a moment — a program that asks kids to trust the government, to trust us, to come out of the shadows and promise to protect them — is being rescinded,” he said.
Senior public relations major Jane Violette said she enjoyed Cuadros’ message to graduates.
“I liked that he included stories about his upbringing and how that can affect a person,” she said. “The graduates may not know what they’re doing in the world, but they can still make a change.”