Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18, whose father was deported earlier this year and barred from re-entering the U.S. for 20 years, last month attended President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.
Melecio Andazola Morales was detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement officers in October and held in custody for 64 days. During this time, Perlmutter and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet LAW ’93, D-Colo., co-sponsored a bill calling for him to be released from detention and allowed to pursue legal residency in the U.S. However, despite months of student activism and efforts by state representatives, Andazola Morales was deported on Dec. 15.
At the State of the Union, Andazola Marquez joined several guests invited by Democratic members of Congress as symbols of opposition to Trump’s policies and rhetoric.
“Being at the [State of the Union] was overwhelming in many regards, both in terms of witnessing Trump fool the American public and also being in the company of people fiercely resisting his agenda,” Andazola Marquez said in an email to the News. “I had the opportunity to meet with many lawmakers that gave me hope.”
During his address, Trump highlighted the stories of people who have been victims of notorious gangs like MS-13, which comprises “unaccompanied alien minors” from El Salvador,” he said.
His speech was widely criticized by Democrats, who said he failed to deliver a unifying message. In a Feb. 1 press release, Perlmutter said he had hoped to hear a commitment to bipartisan cooperation — but that none materialized.
In her email, Andazola Marquez called the president’s speech “divisive,” noting that he used individual stories to “deflect questions of racism in his immigration strategy.”
“If you are an audience member just watching, without looking further into his claims, it would be understandable why you would fall for his lies. But that is the issue. He is a master manipulator. He knows how to pander to people’s fears and insecurities,” Andazola Marquez said. “He is race baiting by dangling these figures before the American public for his political gain. He was not polarizing, he was manipulative, divisive and strategic.”
Before the event, Andazola Marquez emphasized that she wanted the president to hear her story, saying in a video released on Perlmutter’s website on Feb. 1 that she hopes Trump “can at least face the people he’s directly affected with his laws since taking office.”
Echoing Andazola Marquez’s sentiment, in his press release, Perlmutter said Andazola Morales’ story represents one of the many reasons the country needs “to pass humane and common-sense immigration policies that keep families together, help our communities and grow our economy.”
In her email to the News, Andazola Marquez underscored the power of community activism and social justice efforts, saying that the Trump administration has highlighted how “everyone has a responsibility to be civically engaged.” She also noted that Yalies have the ability to help those without a voice.
“What is important is to have people who are aware on several levels and attached to their communities to be represented in the federal government,” she said. “Yalies can help amplify others who aren’t considered in the federal government, though.”
Perlmutter was not the only member of Congress who hoped to send a strong message at the event. Fellow Colorado congressman Jared Polis, D-Colo., invited a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipient from Fort Collins to the address, saying in a press release that he hoped to show the president that those he has held “hostage” in an effort to push through a border wall “are real people.” And Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., invited to the speech people whose families have “been ripped apart by our broken immigration system,” according to her website.
Many Democratic members of Congress also invited anti-harassment advocates and survivors of sexual assault to the address. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., for instance, attended with Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center, which is managing the Time’s Up legal defense fund.
Trump’s inauguration in 2017 marked the first time since 2007 that Republicans gained control of both the executive and legislative branches of government. Jordan Cozby ’20, president of the Yale College Democrats, said that Republican control of Washington and changes in the political sphere over the past few years have forced the group to change its approach.
“Just in the past several years, we’ve always had a few different guarantees that are no longer in place, and with the loss of federal guarantee and the loss of progressive action on the state level, we’ve really had to adapt how we organize,” Cozby said.
Still, Cozby said that many students who are not formally part of the Dems have recently become involved in the group’s campaign internship program. He added that seeing more students directly involved in campaigns has “been really exciting.”
The Yale College Republicans did not respond to request for comment.
Gabe Groz ’19, a member of the Yale Political Union, said Yalies on campus should continue to advocate for New Haven’s undocumented community. During the two-month period that Andazola Morales was detained, many students at Yale and beyond came together to call for his release, signing online petitions and participating in phone-banking events directed toward Colorado-based ICE director Jeffrey Lynch.
In her email, Andazola Marquez said that being at Yale has given her the skills and “credibility” to work on issues such as deportation, poverty and education.
“Yale has been an incredible opportunity for me to learn how to exist in spheres with concentrated levels of power, capital and influence, without letting me forget why am I here, and who I am here for,” she said. “Yale has given me the credibility to talk and work with people who could materially address and change these issues.”
Chloe Glass | email@example.com