Students rallied in front of Cabell Library today to raise awareness about undocumented immigrant rights and fears following President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
“We deserve dignity. We are not asking for it, we are demanding it,” said Ana Diaz Casos, president of Political Latinix United for Movement and Action in Society (PLUMAS) at VCU. “We have that right and no one can tell us otherwise.”
The rally followed a meeting the organization held with VCU President Michael Rao and other university administrators. There, the organization called on the university to advocate, protect and provide financial support for the university’s undocumented students.
During the meeting, the executive board of PLUMAS demanded that the university advocate on their behalf to state and federal government representatives to pass legislation to protect undocumented immigrants.
They also urged Rao to instruct the VCU Police Department to not ask for immigration status when a student calls to report a crime.
Rao agreed to many requests and promised he would do everything he can within legal limits to help protect undocumented students.
He also said the university would not release any information to the public about undocumented students’ immigration status, in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.
“I don’t want students at VCU to be living in any fear,” Rao said. “If you call to report a crime, you should feel safe and know that your immigration status will not be questioned.”
At the rally, PLUMAS also announced that the university will explore the possibility of creating a fund to help cover the cost of attendance for students who will lose legal status. Under DACA, students qualify for in-state tuition. However, without documentation they are forced to pay out-of-state tuition and fees at public universities.
Yanet Limon-Amado, a DACA recipient and VCU student, suggested that VCU follow George Mason University’s example of creating a fund called Mason DREAMERS. The fund consists of donations from outside donors including alumni, corporations and community members — none from the university itself.
Rao agreed to the idea calling it a “great initiative that we absolutely need to have.”
Even with Rao’s support, PLUMAS at VCU said that they will continue to observe the university’s actions and advocate for those who cannot speak up without the fear of revealing their immigration status.
“We are here to hold President Rao’s promises accountable because people’s lives are at stake,” Casos said.
Hiba is a senior studying broadcast journalism and religious studies. In addition to writing for the CT, she is a former Voice of America Intern, a campus editor-at-large for the Huffington Post, executive producer for VCU InSight and president of United Muslim Relief at VCU.
Facebook | LinkedIn | firstname.lastname@example.org