By Raye Weigel
Editor’s Note: Karla Casique, who was a panelist at this event and is quoted in this article, is a staff writer for The Writer’s Bloc.
Just two weeks away from the presidential election scheduled for Nov. 8, a panel gathered Oct. 25 to discuss immigration.
The event was hosted by The Center for Global Migration Studies, the Latin American Studies Center, and the U.S. Latina/o Studies Program. The panelists, Alberto Fernandez, Mervat F. Hatem, Sarah Pierce and Karla Casique, spoke about a range of topics from the normalization of low wages to the United States’ invasion of Iraq and the polarized electorate.
However, during the discussion that followed the panelists’ speeches, the most pressing topic was how immigration policy will be affected by the outcome of the upcoming election.
Karla Casique, a junior multi-platform journalism major, spoke on the panel about her experience as an undocumented student at this university. She won’t be able to vote in the election because of her citizenship status, but discussed how it will affect her future.
Because of her citizenship status, Casique can’t accept FAFSA, take out student loans or obtain certain grants. Everything she pays for school is out of pocket. Last summer, she received an email from this university that said her registration for the next semester would be terminated in four days if she did not make the necessary payment.
“I was calling everywhere,” she said. But no one she called at this university was able to help her. She was forced to reveal her citizenship status and start a GoFundMe to ask friends and family for assistance. “I didn’t come out on my own terms because for 20 years, I haven’t told anyone. I think I only told like two people that were really close to me about my citizenship status.”
“I hate the word ‘diversity’ now,” Casique said. She explained UMD says it celebrates undocumented Terps, but makes little effort to help students on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy passed by President Obama allowing immigrants who entered the U.S. before they reached 16 to obtain work permits and other benefits.
“I want you to know that my citizenship status affects my mental health, my physical health, social environments, my relationships, friendship, romantic relationships, my professional life . . .” Casique said.
The panel discussed how the upcoming election will affect immigrants and students like Casique.
Pierce, an Associate Policy Analyst for U.S. Programs at the Migration Policy Institute, discussed the Republican and Democratic party platforms with regards to immigration. During most years, analysts can compare them reasonably, she said, but this year, “party platforms exist in parallel universes.”
Furthermore, the panelists noted neither the “pathway to citizenship” nor the “American dream” really exist.
First of all, it is a long and difficult process to obtain citizenship. Casique said families are scammed by attorneys who take payment but never intended on helping. And campaigns such as Hillary Clinton’s make efforts to reach out to people of color, but can fall flat by doing things such as comparing her to an abuela.
As far as the American dream, Casique said her family in Venezuela was shocked by the poverty her family faced after coming to the U.S. “To see that it wasn’t true and we made all those efforts to immigrate here was surprising to them,” Casique said.
“I have family and friends who were once undocumented, ” said Sebastian Carias, a graduate student studying modern European history. He said he enjoyed how the panel brought attention to Central and South America.
Panelist Alberto Fernández, Director of Latino and Community Engagement at Working America, AFL-CIO responded from a comment from the audience, agreeing that this hate does not end with the election but has brought something to the surface that will not be easily erased.
“The election will be over in a couple of weeks, but the ideas are still out there,” Panelist Mervat Hatem, Professor of Political Science at Howard University said.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pixabay.
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.