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.”