Immigration, Human Rights, and the diversity within the Hispanic and Latinx community at SIU

Immigration%2C+Human+Rights%2C+and+the+diversity+within+the+Hispanic+and+Latinx+community+at+SIU

The celebration of Hispanic and Latinx month was recently recognized at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Events were held the entire month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Some of these events included seminars, festivals, classes and movie screenings. Coinciding with the celebration, thousands of Haitian migrants were camped at the United States-Mexico border in hopes of seeking  asylum in the US. 

There are a number of Hispanic and Latinx student organizations at SIU including Hispanic Student Council, Latin American Student Association (LASA) and Latino Cultural Association (LCA).

LASA is a student organization that provides its members with ways to learn about, share and embrace their Latin heritage. LASA held a seminar on Sep. 29 titled “Intricacies of Hispanic/Latinx Identity” which intended to clarify the common misconceptions that some hold about the identities of Hispanic and Latino people. 

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Jose Burgos Vasquez is a graduate student and a teacher at SIU. He teaches Spanish and English as a second language. Burgos is Venezuelan and is the president of LASA at SIU. 

“So far the activities have been meaningful and fun,” Burgos said. “In the future, it would be great if more strategies were implemented to engage and spark the curiosity of American students in these activities. The rate of participation is probably one out of ten.”

Burgos said he wants people to understand that Latinos are a part of a vast demographic, and realize that there are more than 20 countries that speak Spanish in the world. Burgos said generalizations and stereotypes of those who are Hispanic show that people really misunderstand the vastness of all the different cultures that fall into the single demographic.

David Alonso, a graduate student at SIU and a member of LASA, is from Puerto Rico, and said coming to SIU was something new to him. Alonso said he had seen the racist behavior of Americans on the internet, but was amazed to see that Hispanics at SIU had a voice and were able to express themselves.

Alonso said the events during the Hispanic and Latinx heritage month were well administered, and he thinks that showing the heritages of Spanish speakers to non-Spanish speakers is amazing. Alonso said he thinks education in the US should offer Spanish lessons for people starting at a younger age and should teach people about the different practices of cultures that fall under the demographic. 

Daysi Rodriguez, president of the Latino Cultural Association, along with Vianey Sanchez, vice-president of LCA, are both Latino students at SIU. The two met at the kick-off event for the Hispanic and Latino heritage month and decided to become officers for the LCA, which had been inactive beforehand.

 Rodriguez, who was born in Honduras, said she was very happy with the celebration held by SIU for Hispanic and Latino heritage month, and felt that the events provided information for undocumented students and brought the community together.

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“I’ve heard multiple times of students that will reach their senior year or will graduate and not realize that there is a bigger Hispanic and Latino community here on campus or won’t even know about any of the resources,” said Rodriguez.

Sanchez was born in Michoacán, Mexico and went to high-school in DuQuoin, Ill. She said before this year, she had never celebrated Hispanic and Latinx heritage month, and the experience felt weird because it was new to her. 

Sanchez said she was pleased to learn more about the indigenous people from the town in which she originated from through the film screened during the kick off event for the month ‘Footprints in the Sky’ created by Daniel Rodriguez. She was also pleased with the art exhibit ‘Nativas’ that was put up in the Morris Library.‘Nativas’ was created by artist Juana Duran Charicata, who is from Michoacán. The paintings depicted the migrant upbringing in her life and showed strong indigenous women that worked picking fruits and vegetables in fields.

There’s a certain level of normality that comes with her paintings and I definitely can’t view them in the light that everybody else views them because it’s so familiar,”  Sanchez said “To some other people it might be exotic.”

Sanchez is a recipient of Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is a immigration policy in the United States that offers people who were brought to the US as children temporary protection against removal from the country.

Those who are recipients of DACA are required to renew their case every few years. Sanchez said the processing of paperwork for renewal is sensitive and specific, therefore, it usually involves the hiring of an attorney which has cost Sanchez over $400 each renewal. 

Sanchez said there are programs such as the Immigration Project that offer assistance in filing the paperwork for renewal. Each initial DACA application costs $495 and each renewal costs $410 regardless of whether people get accepted or not.  

Every college Sanchez applied to flagged her as an international student due to her being a DACA recipient, and required that she take multiple written and oral exams just to be admitted. She said she applied to colleges early in order to receive the financial aid offered by schools to early applicants, but was denied that ability because they required citizenship.

Rodriguez and Sanchez said they had both recently learned about somebody who was flagged as an international student and had to pay more than double the price of tuition compared to his peers at a community college. Undocumented students face challenges with organizational systems that lack proper recourses to assist them. 

“Every place I have applied to I’ve learned that I need to look for those resource centers, and if they don’t have one maybe it’s not for me,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said she chose SIU because of the resource center for Hispanic and undocumented students, and is thankful to have that center to assist DACA recipients at the college as well as Hispanic and Latinx students. 

Being undocumented is just one of the many struggles that immigrants face in the United States. Sanchez said Hispanic and Latino communities are also still feeling the effects from the Trump administration. Donald Trump campaigned on building “the wall” between the United States and Mexico, and is quoted on many occasions stating anti-immigration rhetoric.

Sanchez said the Hispanic and Latinx community felt more hostility and discrimination during the Trump presidency than they had felt in the years prior. 

“That was a super dark time,” said Sanchez “I don’t know how scary people think it actually was for the Hispanic/Latino community during his presidency, but it was a really frightening time for the undocumented students in the country because we were being threatened.”

Recently, thousands of Haitian-migrants traveled to the US/Mexico border to seek asylum in the US from their country which has suffered from the destruction of earthquakes and the assassination of their president. The Biden Administration flew a majority of the migrants back to Haiti, after they had travelled thousands of miles to get to the border. 

Burgos said he fled from Venezuela about five years ago. He received an assistantship and started working at SIU last year. He said immigration laws are not friendly, are economically discriminatory and are especially difficult for those who lack documentation due to coming from countries that violate human rights. 

Burgos said he waited over 15 months to receive his passport, and many more months to complete the other forms that were necessary in applying for different statuses of immigration.

“I want people to understand that immigration is a by-product of corruption and human rights violations,” Burgos said “For people who walk for weeks leaving everything behind, the only thing that they want is food and shelter.”

Burgos said countries have agreed to protect those who are facing human rights abuse, and said there are international laws that make democratic governments responsible for helping those in need. 

“Also, another interesting thing about immigration is that diversity usually brings strength for both migrants and local communities,” Burgos said. “Migrants come with a grateful heart for the most essential things and will work incredibly hard towards contributing to their host communities if given the chance.”

“Sadly, politicians have constantly failed when it comes to delivering what they’ve promised. So it’s the people who have to be aware of these situations and be kind to one another,” Burgos said. “No one but an immigrant would ever understand the trauma and the pain that has forced them to flee from their countries by any means.”

The Hispanic and Latino resource center is located on the first floor of the student resource building and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Staff reporter Kiersten Owens can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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