“Build the wall” has become a rallying cry for millions of conservative Americans who feel left behind by an increasingly diverse America. And “build the wall” is exactly what a group of Loyola students did, but for a very different reason than some conservatives might.
“It isn’t about some wall hundreds of miles away,” said junior Addison Mauck, who organized the Mock Border Wall project that was displayed on Loyola’s West Quad from Oct. 18–20. “The purpose of this project is to humanize the topic of immigration and combat the negative rhetoric of the current political season.”
The words, “No human being is illegal” and “We are a nation of immigrants,” were displayed on hand-painted banners that hung from the wall’s steel fencing. Despite the project’s supportive message, it garnered harsh criticism from undocumented students who felt they weren’t given a voice in the installation. About 20 signs that read, “Majority of undocumented students were not consulted for this,” were posted on the wall in protest.
“We had a student [in] our organization who represented the community of undocumented students because we do not want to force anyone to speak about something that can be very personal and private,” Mauck said in response to the criticism.
That student to whom Mauck referred, who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of her immigration status, said her role in the project was not very significant.
“It raises the question of why more students weren’t reached out to by anyone other than me, because I was not an organizer of the project,” she said. “Our community, both undocumented and immigrant, does have a voice on campus, and other people should not be speaking for us.”
Loyola has taken steps to support that community of undocumented students. In 2001, Loyola became involved in the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which provides a pathway to citizenship for children of undocumented parents. Since 2012, about 150 students and faculty have completed “Share the DREAM,” which is training to become an ally for undocumented students, offered by Loyola’s Department of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SDMA), said SDMA director Joe Saucedo.
The training is a three-hour long session that covers DREAM Act legislation, the barriers undocumented students face and the personal stories that those students bring with them, according to Joe Saucedo.
“It’s important to know that these students’ status of being undocumented is one aspect of who they are, but it’s not all of who they are,” Saucedo said. “[The training] indicates to someone who may carry those identities that this is a safe space and there are people who get them and understand.”
In order to make it easier for undocumented students to attend Loyola, students voted in 2015 to include a $2.50 fee to each student’s tuition, creating the Magis Scholarship Fund, which provides free tuition and housing to five undocumented students every year.
One recipient of the scholarship, sophomore Vince Garcia, said he appreciated Loyola’s support of undocumented students but revealed that he hasn’t received any communication or resources from the university since receiving the scholarship. He said his academic advisor hasn’t completed the DREAM ally training.
“I’d say they should communicate better, because I always have questions about health insurance, for example, and I feel like I don’t have anyone to talk to,” said Garcia, a social work major who wants to help undocumented students like himself get a head start.
“I think we’re getting better at this. Part of our job is taking stock of the barriers that students face, and we try to bring in the students themselves and ask them how they feel,” said Saucedo.
“The most important thing we can do, as people with citizenship privilege who can vote, is to continue to elect politicians who will support these programs and keep the interests of undocumented students in mind.”