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Students hold town hall to support undocumented students

A town hall event on the steps of South Building on Wednesday afternoon discussed what administration can do to promote equality at UNC

A town hall event on the steps of South Building on Wednesday afternoon discussed what administration can do to promote equality at UNC

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified a source. Danielle Balderas is a graduate student. Barbara Sostaita, a graduate student, read the petition aloud and led the group to deliver the petition.

On the steps of South Building Wednesday, second-year Ph.D. student Danielle Balderas demanded UNC do more for undocumented students.

“UNC administration needs to take concrete action to make sure that respect for all is enforced across campus,” Balderas said.

At the "Respect for All Tar Heels Town Hall," students, faculty and members of the Chapel Hill community heard from speakers about pressing issues around campus regarding oppressed minorities.

“I think it’s awesome that this event is happening at this time of the semester,” history graduate student Isabell Moore said. “We are seeing a more intensification of issues since Trump’s election.”

The Respect for All Tar Heels group read their petition to protect undocumented students and discussed specific requests aimed at the UNC administration.

The requests were: to issue a public statement in support of undocumented students and staff, guarantee student privacy by refusing to release information regarding the immigration status of students and community members, to refuse to comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations or raids, invest in resources to train the campus community to be allies and to create a more inclusive environment for undocumented students and to proclaim UNC part of the network of sanctuary campuses that provide a refuge for students facing deportation proceedings.

Barbara Sostaita, a Ph.D. student in the religious studies department, said there have been over 3,000 signatures on the petition. After the town hall, the Respect for All Tar Heels group dropped off the petition to the UNC administration office.

“We want more than words from the administration — we want deeds,” Moore said.

Sostaita said many events, especially after Donald Trump's election, have created an unsafe environment for oppressed, minority communities.

“This town hall is the start of the series of events through which we will bring to light new issues that concerns members of the Tar Heel community,” Iqbal Sevea, a history professor, said.

Sevea said in 2017, UNC professors will host a new series of teach-ins about current issues. Some of the teach-ins will be “Race in Contemporary America,” “Freedom of Expression” and “LGBT Rights.”

Manny Hernandez, a Ph.D. student, is a first-generation college student. He said he filed a bill in Student Congress last week to declare UNC to be a sanctuary campus.

“We have not only seen the hate, but the fear from our LGBTQ students, immigrants students, color students,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez and the co-president of CHispA, Raymundo Garcia, aimed their message directly to the UNC administration.

“We want more intentional and institutional support and representation,” Garcia said. “Even when we do everything right, we don’t have the support to thrive. If Latinx students really matter to your publicity, prove it.”

Garcia said the Latinx community is looking for representation, support and aid for undocumented students.

“Communities are under attack. We are living in an environment where immigrants and minorities are being exploited,” Moore said. “This is the time for creativity and courage. We can learn from the struggles of the past."

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