With the U.S. Senate mired in debate on legislation that addresses border security and immigrant worker status, about 200 students gathered on Beinecke Plaza Thursday afternoon for a “Rally in Solidarity” to express their support for immigrant rights.
Adriana Garcia ’08, the moderator of student advocacy group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan — which organized the rally — said the event was intended to unite community activists with University students and professors in an effort to raise awareness of the problems facing immigrants to the United States. Students at the rally said laws penalizing immigrants are not in the nation’s best interests, but some Yalies said they would have concerns with more lenient immigration legislation.
Garcia said such legislation is fundamentally an issue of human rights.
“We wanted to bring people together within the Yale community to hear about the issue and realize that there is a group of students here on campus who are mobilizing with the masses nationwide,” Garcia said. “We wanted to say that we will stand in opposition to any type of legislation that will be a direct or indirect violation of human rights.”
MEChA Secretary Sandy Placido ’08 said she attended the rally because she thinks several of the immigration proposals currently before Congress are dehumanizing and fail to take into account the critical role immigrants play in supporting the American economy.
“People need to be conscious of ideas of human rights and realize that no one here is actually an illegal person,” she said. “And it’s not like they’re stealing jobs. They’re getting paid to do jobs that other people wouldn’t put up with. It’s more efficient for employers this way.”
But Samantha Tonini ’07 said she believes support for illegal immigration violates “an agreement among citizens that is defined by law.”
“We really need to keep close tabs on the border and restrict illegal immigration as it was meant to be restricted,” Tonini said. “There are laws that say it’s illegal, and I think it’s really unsafe to have a country with a border that is no better than a coffee filter.”
Placido, who was born in the United States after her parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, said her upbringing in a largely immigrant community has given the issue personal importance to her.
“I confront these people all the time, and it’s appalling to see the conditions they’re in,” Placido said. “The fact that you came from that means you want to help when you see people struggling and trying to move forward. I’m from a community of minorities and immigrants, but I think it affects everybody.”
Adam Torres ’06, who attended the rally, said it is important for the Yale community to be aware of the legislation under review, because he thinks it is discriminatory and inhumane. He said a measure passed by the House of Representatives in December that granted police officers broader powers to arrest people suspected of illegal entry into the country is particularly dangerous because of increasing xenophobia.
“My family has been in the United States for the last 90 years,” he said. “But unfortunately we’ve developed a concept in this country where an immigrant is someone who doesn’t have blond hair and blue eyes. There are lot of people who think you can define a citizen by how they look, and that’s not right.”
The rally featured a series of speakers who attempted to energize the demonstrators and urge them to push for reform, Placido said, including student speakers from such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, professors with an interest in the issue, and community advocates from organizations such as Unidad Latina en Accion, which works on issues relating to undocumented workers’ rights in New Haven.
On April 10, MEChA members will participate in a National Day of Action meant to increase awareness of immigration issues, Placido said. In addition, the organization is planning an awareness campaign titled “The Many Faces of Immigration” for the week of April 10-14 that will feature panel discussions, movie screenings and talks by immigration activists.