Eleven immigrant stories were placed on Thomas Plaza on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The eleven stories represented the eleven million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States. The story exhibition gathered stories from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, undocumented immigrants, and immigrants granted Temporary Protection Status (TPS). The stories were gathered from members of the EMU community and other immigrants across the country. “My hope was [to educate] people about what is DACA, what does immigration look like, who does it affect, and bring an awareness [to the topic],” said senior and exhibition planner Keyri Lopez-Godoy. Some of the stories were accompanied with pictures of the authors to give a face to the story and the issue, while other authors chose to remain anonymous but still share their story.
In their stories, they expressed how DACA and a chance to live in America has impacted them. For many, the implementation of DACA gave a chance for higher education and a greater hope for a bright future. “I was able to get a better job, obtain health insurance, graduate with a Masters in Conflict Transformation and not live in fear of deportation,” said Isabel Castillo, an EMU alum. In the shadow of DACA’s termination, those sharing expressed uncertainty and fear for their future.
The event was organized by the DACA Dialogue Planning Committee in response to the enthusiasm by the student body following the Common Grounds event and DACA chapel that took place on Oct. 5 and 6.
“There’s been a lot of energy for people on campus to mobilize and organize themselves,” said senior and exhibition planner Anna Messer. The idea for the story exhibition came from University of Virginia where two students invited Lopez-Godoy to host an exhibition at EMU to spread more stories.
The stories were lined up in Thomas Plaza on chairs facing the Campus Center. Surrounding the stories were flags representing countries around the world. “[The flags] let people know its not just about undocumented or DACA-mented people. It’s about our international community,” said Lopez-Godoy. At the end of the stories was a sheet of paper for people to write responses, prayers, questions and comments. The committee hopes to hang the paper up on campus for others to see and reflect on.
The DACA Dialogue Planning Committee represents many groups from EMU’s campus. The committee is made of members from the Applied Social Sciences department, Resident Life, Campus Ministries, Multicultural Services, Peacebuilding and Fellowship, and the Latino Student Alliance. “It really was like…[the] ‘Many Parts, One Body’ theme,” said Messer. The DACA Committee has events coming up soon with a petition signing on campus within the next few weeks. In early December, the committee will join other colleges in downtown Harrisonburg to march the gathered petitions to Representative Bob Goodlatte’s office.