“I think we all come to college sort of hoping to make a difference and leave the place better than you found it,” said senior David Duncan, a member of the Immigrant Realities group on campus.
After President Donald Trump rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Sept. 5, 2017, a group of Elon University students founded Immigrant Realities. The group works to advocate for immigrant rights, educate the community, empower immigrants and eliminate stigmas.
“As an immigrant myself, I have a social responsibility to take action and to use my privilege of being on a campus like Elon to inform others who might not be aware or are not educated on the real impact that it has on people’s lives,” said senior Mirella Cisneros, an Immigrant
After President Trump’s decision, former Elon student Ana Silvia felt that she should do something. On Sept. 18, 2017, she worked with other students to hold a DACA information panel.
The panel was popular, and it inspired Silvia and the other students to do more.
“It must have been over a hundred students in that space, and I thought that was very telling of the conversation and the need for a conversation on this campus,” said Tyrone Jean, the director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education and academic advisor to Immigrant Realities.
“We decided that there was more that we could do not just for DACA recipients, but for other immigrants on campus and just immigrant communities in the US,” Cisneros said.
The students who created Immigrant Realities went to the Collegiate Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR) this past February. Immigrant Realities plans to attend CAIR this year.
“It’s a really cool opportunity for us to learn more about ways in which we can implement policy here at Elon in terms of improving immigrant students experiences,” Duncan said.
Immigrant Realities created a social media presence on Instagram and Facebook. Their social media campaigns focus on educating people about immigrants. They include #FakeNewsFriday, #TakeActionTuesday and #SuccessStory on Sundays.
“That’s not enough, right? It’s not just it’s not enough to just post things in order to create change. You need to take action,” Cisneros said.
They organized two additional panels and co-hosted Civil Discourse on Immigration with Elon Politics Forum and Hall for Change, a Living Learning Community in the Colonnades Neighborhood.
Immigrant Realities also attended a protest against 287 (G). The 287 (G) program allows state and local police officers to act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.
This organization allows students the ability to express their opinions and effect change in a meaningful way.
“It is not just about Latino people. That is a common misconception and actually impacts a lot of people from various countries,” Jean said.
“Immigrant Realities has been super important to me, and it’s shaped what I want to do after college,” Duncan said. “I want to go into immigration law now and that is something that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.”
The members of Immigrant Realities expressed appreciation to Elon’s administration for being helpful throughout the process to become a full-fledged student organization. Immigrant Realities was awarded developmental status this summer.
In the future, Immigrant Realities hopes to host more panels and events to educate the public. They are hoping to host a panel this semester with students who can share their experiences as immigrants on Elon’s campus and how being on Elon’s campus has changed their perspective of the United States.
“Just remember that Immigrant Realities is something that’s fluid,” said Duncan, “It is something that’s always changing and it is truly a grassroots organization that started from students who are passionate about something.”