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Fear deters undocumented students

Allison Clark

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Undocumented student attendance at events aimed at helping and engaging them with a community has dwindled, in part, because of fear of deportation and betrayal by allies.

Undocumented and Unafraid, a spoken word event on campus, was postponed due to poor attendance projections.

According to the Facebook event page, 116 people were interested in attending Undocumented and Unafraid, but not enough people formally signed up through the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center. The CCLC postponed the event to April 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the UHUB.

Karla Guzman, the event organizer and a member of Empower, said one explanation for the lack of attendance and sign-ups was fear.

“They are afraid of being exposed,” Guzman said. “Undocumented students have these fears of ‘do I really want to tell someone I am undocumented? Is there a risk here? Will they use this against me? Are they really an ally?’”

Guzman said she encourages undocumented students to attend campus events and to welcome allies into their community. She emphasized that undocumented students will have to put themselves out there to create change, which means taking risks.

“If anything, we want allies to come in to Undocumented and Unafraid to hear these stories because each individual is different,” Guzman said. “When some people hear the word undocumented, they immediately think of the words illegal aliens and associate them with criminals.”

Undocumented and Afraid, and other events such as Know Your Rights aim to be empowering for “undocumented students to show that they are not alone, that there are other students like them on campus and students who support them,” Guzman said, and to give allies an understanding of what it means to be undocumented.

Jamie Cabrera, an attendee of a Know Your Rights event aimed at helping undocumented students understand their powers and rights as people, encouraged allies and undocumented students to attend these events.

“I think it is important for everyone to have an organization to support them,” Cabrera said. “Some people will always be too scared to come, so go to the events and take notes. You never know who you might help.”

Allison Clark can be reached at [email protected] or @maladaynews on Twitter.

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Fear deters undocumented students