Undocumented Longhorns raise awareness of immigrant student rights

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Photo Credit: Alissa Jae Lazo-Kim | Daily Texan Staff

Students gathered to listen to music and play lotería on the lawn of the Texas State Capitol Building to raise awareness for Undocumented Longhorns Week, a series of events highlighting the struggles of undocumented UT students.

“Being a minority, you’re looked at differently,” biochemistry sophomore Joseph Ramirez said. “You’re constantly in fear of getting deported.”

University Leadership Initiative is hosting Undocumented Longhorns Week through Nov. 4 to increase campus awareness of undocumented students at UT and the contributions they have made after graduation.

The week features a screening of “No Le Digas Nadie” and a panel led by undocumented students.

Many undocumented students came to UT through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal act passed in 2012 to help undocumented students continue their education through college and find relief from deportation by providing work permits, driver’s licenses and social security numbers.

Estefania Ponce, an Own the Dream DACA lead, said the process to become a DACA student is arduous and requires a lot of legal knowledge, which most students don’t have but Own the Dream provides.

“Before DACA, there was a lot of students that studied engineering, were pre-med, but couldn’t apply what they learned to the economy due to their legal status,” Ponce said.

The students associated with Undocumented Longhorns Week said they all have the common goal of getting fellow students to understand the struggles of immigrant students searching for an education.

“People who come to America live their whole lives as an American,” Ramirez said. “To tell them they are not going to have any other opportunities like the classmate sitting next to them just because of a paper is unjust.”

ULI also urged attendees to consider the political ramifications of the election as DACA has come under fire in past Texas legislative sessions. Students were encouraged to go out and vote if they were legally eligible.

“Whoever is the next president can choose to expand [DACA], or destroy it,” Ramirez said.

With the possibility of state legislators implementing restrictive legislation in the upcoming session, government freshman Vanessa Rodriguez said DACA doesn’t define her or what she worked for to come to UT and that students will always find a way to work hard for their opportunities.

“That’s the thing about undocumented students, prior to coming out they were in the shadows for 10 or 15 years,” Rodriguez said. “Throughout those years, we continued to fight and do our best academically.”