After news broke last September that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was being rescinded, senior Ana Silvia decided something needed to be done at Elon University.
With that mindset, Silvia and several other Elon students decided to create an organization dedicated to discussing immigration issues and educating the broader community on those problems. This led to the founding of Immigrant Realities.
“We need to educate the campus to eliminate misconceptions,” Silvia said. “And if we discuss immigrant issues, we empower immigrants to speak up.”
Achieving these goals was a long-term project, which is why Silvia felt that an organization needed to be founded.
“After DACA was rescinded, there wasn’t much to be done in terms of campus discourse on the decision, but a first step still needed to be taken,” Silvia said. “There were things that we could do that would allow us to feel good in the short term, like a march, but we wanted to transfer that to the long term.”
Elon junior Mirella Cisneros, who considers herself an immigrant, believes that the best long-term goal for the group should
“This organization can really make a difference by addressing issues that we don’t address currently, for a population that we don’t talk about often — immigrant students,” Cisneros said. “Those issues need to be talked about so our immigrant students feel like they are safe on this campus and that there are people willing to listen.”
The young organization has already begun taking strides toward its goals by hosting panels focused on immigrant issues.
So far this year, the organization has hosted two immigrant panels. At the most recent panel on March 28, five Elon community members originally from Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nepal and Belgium discussed their experiences immigrating to the United States.
While this panel may have been the last for this year, Immigrant Realities hopes to host more like it in fall 2018.
“We have a small and committed group from diverse backgrounds, and we hope to continue hosting immigrant panels because immigrants come from all backgrounds, ethnicities and walks of life. And we need to talk about that,” Silvia said. “These panels are important because they remind us that there isn’t any one group of immigrants; there are many of them. We hope our different events will continue to educate people about that.”
Cisneros considered both panels to be huge successes because of the crowds that each one brought in. The most recent panel had more than 100 people in attendance.
“Some were immigrants, some were not, but we all come together to be allies and advocate for each other,” Cisneros said.
While both Cisneros and Silvia have enjoyed the organization’s success, they have had to think creatively about how to continue to keep the Elon community engaged.
The most difficult part of educating a campus about these issues is the wide range of knowledge that changes for each individual.
“There are people who know a lot, people who know nothing and people who are in the middle,” Silvia said. “We need to engage each group of people while continuing to promote awareness to these issues.”
Immigrant Realities is not planning on holding any other events for the rest of the school year, but its mission to educate Elon’s campus about these issues will continue next fall.