Undocumented Immigrant Alliance hosts phone-a-thon

BY AVA BLUM-CARR ’21

This week in Blanchard Campus Center, a coalition of campus organizations is calling upon students to exercise their right to dissent by making calls to Congress in a #DefendDACA phone-a-thon. 

The event is being collaboratively organized by Mount Holyoke’s Undocumented Immigrant Alliance (UIA), the Student Government Association, the International Student Organizing Committee and the First-Generation and Low-Income Partnership. The action follows the announcement by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions of the Justice Department’s plan to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Renea Burke ’18, chairperson of UIA, emphasized the significance of the DACA repeal within the local community. 

“At Mount Holyoke, the presence of undocumented students may be phased out altogether,” said Burke. “A significant portion of a standard financial aid package includes work study and loans; without DACA, future undocumented students may struggle to afford an education here.” 

The overarching goal of the phone-a-thon is for students to voice their concerns to Congress, in hopes that new and more comprehensive immigration policy will be enacted before DACA expires. Burke emphasized the importance of Mount Holyoke students utilizing their 

democratic right to protest, and other students taking part in the action agreed. 

“We can’t just be silent while vulnerable populations in our community and outside our community are being persecuted,” said Kay Klo ’20,  a member of the UIA. “We need to take astand, and I think it’s really important to learn about the power of just calling, and just doing something to get involved.”

Zoe Heard ’21, who participated in the action by calling in, echoed this statement: “I think it’s important for citizens of this country to recognize that there is a great deal of privilege that is involved with our status, and with that privilege comes the responsibility to protect those without it,” Heard said. “I plan to call in throughout the week and continuing on because it’s my civic duty to work towards the best interests of this country, and in my opinion, the Dream Act will do just that.”

DACA offers a helpful, but temporary respite for immigrants who arrived in the country before they were 16 years of age and have remained a resident for at least five consecutive years. These undocumented youths are provided authorization to work and are deferred from deportation. Its recipients are referred to as Dreamers. According to The New York Times, the DACA program encompasses 800,000 people, and enables them to live and work without the fear of being suddenly extradited from the United States.    

Across the country, mass protests have broken out in response to the announcement of the repeal. Many cite the potentially adverse effect of removing hundreds of thousands of people from American workplaces and communities. According to Burke, the percentage of DACA recipients who are currently employed is close to 100 percent, in addition to the many enrolled at schools and colleges like our own. 

The phone-a-thon ends Friday, but Burke stressed the importance of continued involvement in the fight for justice for undocumented immigrants. In her opinion, striving to educate oneself about the issue is key, for the topic of immigration is multifaceted and extends beyond what we read in the news. The necessity of a solution that is universal and permanent in all the ways that DACA was not has become particularly apparent. 

“The Dream Act of 2017 can be that solution,” Burke said. “When it is enacted, undocumented youth will finally be free to simply exist and live a stable life in the United States — a country many Dreamers already call their own.”

Mount Holyoke News

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