DREAMers On Grounds, an organization dedicated to creating a safe space for undocumented students, hosted “UndocuALLY” — an event designed to educate students on how to be an ally for undocumented immigrants — Wednesday night.
DREAMers President Paola Valdez, a third-year Curry student, said a safe space for undocumented students involves empowering these students and providing “a network of people who are there for them” to help with emotional and mental stress.
The two-hour event, which was the first UndocuALLY training hosted on Grounds, included a variety of activities and discussion questions to train attendants to be allies of immigrants, and especially the undocumented immigrant community.
One activity called a “privilege walk” started with those attending lining up holding hands. One of the hosts then read out a statement that defined someone with or without privilege, and students would step forward or backward based on their relationship with the statement.
The activity was designed to highlight the disparity of privilege among students. A discussion about how privilege aids them in society followed.
Another activity had attendants discuss policies and terms that apply to living as an undocumented resident in the United States.
One idea the group discussed was that of a sanctuary city, or a city in which community trust policies are integrated to increase trust between immigrant communities and the police.
They also discussed in-state tuition bills. Until 2014, undocumented students were not eligible to receive in-state tuition in Virginia.
The meeting’s members then separated into small groups to go over case studies of undocumented individuals which highlighted the difficulties of being undocumented.
Members highlighted the difficulties of not having a driver’s license, such as not having access to certain off-grounds housing, credit cards which require the license and cell phone plans which require having a social security number.
Diego Orbegoso, a senior philosophy of law and political science major who came from Virginia Commonwealth University to attend the event, said his involvement in groups like DREAMers and PLUMAS, the Political Latinxs United Movement and Action in Society, is more a duty than it is a hobby.
“It is my obligation as a person of color and as someone with the privilege of being documented,” Orbegoso said. “I have the power and privilege to enter these spaces to protest without any fear of going back to a place that wasn’t able to sustain you.”
Francesca Callicotte, a second-year College student, said she came to better empathize with undocumented immigrants and better understand their situations.
“I never really understood my undocumented friends’ situation, and wanted to come here to learn how I could help,” Callicotte said.
Valdez said she hopes students from all parts of the University know the struggle undocumented students go through, and explained her long term goal for DREAMers as a society.
“I want people in big organizations like Honor, UJC and StucCo to come so they can actually learn about the struggles undocumented students go through,” Valdez said. “I want all these seats to be filled, and people that know nothing about it to learn something about it.”
Around 26 students attended the event.
Valdez also said she thinks it is not only a matter of educating students and faculty about how to create a safe space, but also about educating them about undocumented immigrants’ existence in the first place.
“A lot of people may not have known that students that are undocumented didn’t come here.” Valdez said. “DREAMers helps bring awareness that undocumented students are here, they exist and they have a voice.”
The next UndocuALLY training will be held Nov. 15.