In response to the current political and social state of American society, graduate students at Quinnipiac University have created a petition in support of undocumented faculty, students and their families.
The petition currently has six supporters, with an ultimate goal of 100. The statement, issued by Pomona College, has been signed by over 500 university and college presidents around the country, including 16 of Quinnipiac’s “peer institutions,” but is the first of it’s kind developed for and by the Quinnipiac community. Those who are looking to sign and/or join this movement are not required to display their name if they do not wish to do so.
Michael Diaz, a first-year social work graduate student and one of the creators of the petition, founded the idea after discussing ways to enact social change in his human behavior class.
“My main goal, honestly, throughout this whole process is mainly to start a conversation,” Diaz said. “I really want to start a conversation that roots in respect and roots in empathy and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t have opposing opinions, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have conflicting opinions. I just want us to be able to talk about it in a way that’s productive.”
This was a major topic of discussion in 2015 when Maria Praeli, a Quinnipiac undergraduate Political Science major, was one of six undocumented youth immigrant members of the United We Dream foundation to visit the White House. With the intention of speaking to President Obama on the subject of immigrant rights, Praeli and the Dreamers, who are part of the movement, vocalized their personal experiences to show how anti-immigration legislation would prevent millions of young people from realizing their opportunities according to an article written by the Yale Daily News.
The concept now arises again in the form of a petition to President John Lahey and Provost/Executive Vice President Mark Thompson.
As the petition is still in its early stages, created around November 2016 the document is still making its rounds amongst the staff and students of the school. Diaz said a petition of a similar cause has been in circulation throughout the faculty since December, but this version includes all members of and around the Quinnipiac community.
“I have been noticing movements and groups on campus that have supported an assortment of different causes, so you have a group that supports the LGBT community, and you have other groups that have supported and illuminated ideas surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement,” Diaz said.
In previous years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has aided undocumented immigrant students by allowing them to request a consideration of deferred action for a period of two years in which they will not be placed in removal proceedings or removed from the United States, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
With recent political changes, the sustainability of this program has become uncertain, therefore motivating these students to act for the safety of their fellow peers and staff.
“You have all these different groups doing a bunch of different things, and in the heap of it all, sometimes we get lost, and we may not recognize some of the people that might be affected by certain mindsets or policies in the political arena currently,” Diaz said. “There are plenty of people in our community that identify as such and struggle to make ends meet because of their legal status.”
In the petition, the writers ask university leaders to uphold to the standards that previous people have enforced in helping students and faculty affected by these measures, by continuing to guide them in the forms of financial and social involvement within their community.
The document itself asks university officials to pledge to six calls of action regarding their backing in the safety and well-being of the members of this campus.
Each statement addresses varying actions and/or commitments the school must take towards the many undocumented immigrants that make up the Quinnipiac community. The petition calls for, a reaffirmation of the university in support and responsibility to protecting all of its students and workers, a restriction of the Department of Public Safety to inquire about the immigration status of students and faculty and collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The university must also ensure that all students’ privacy will remain guaranteed. Confidential counseling and legal services should be made available to undocumented students, DACA recipients, staff, workers and their families. Reestablish the university’s commitment to creating an atmosphere of respect by eliminating hate speech directed at any minority group.
In signing this petition, a person agrees to these pillars and will support the enforcement of them within the Quinnipiac community.
“I feel we have a moral obligation to show support… [and] solidarity,” Diaz said. “You don’t need to live and die for it, but just consider other people’s perspective and what they go through.”
Like Diaz, others have agreed to these standards of helping those who meet these conditions simply based on the fact that they are human. Several Quinnipiac students have defined their reasoning for supporting this cause within the base of the petition.
Michele Battey, first-year graduate student in the master of social work program, defined her purpose as her belief that all people should be treated equally.
“I’m signing because every person, regardless of citizenship, deserves the right to a good education,” Battey said. “And the right to be treated equal to all people, documented or not.”
Other students have also vocalized their opinions in support of this campaign. Alexi Mangili, senior biology and English major, said that her interpretation of the piece is simply about being human.
“I’m in support of the petition as a student because I feel that it is important to support every member of our community, she said. “No student gets to go here without tremendous effort and that effort should never be ignored or invalidated just because of the circumstances of their birth.”
Kyle Liang, senior ELMPA major, addressed the concept of America’s diversity as his reasoning for signing.
“I’m signing because we are a country founded upon immigrants, because documents do not define one’s identity or their right to an education, and because college is a place of learning, learning that does not discriminate and an administration that should not either.” Liang said. “It is a privilege to have them [immigrants] alongside us, so as an educational institution committed to our students’ potential, we should be promoting this sort of cross-cultural learning as well as protecting these undocumented students from threats against their learning.”
In regards to furthering this movement, Diaz hopes to gain more support from the Quinnipiac community before bringing it to administration.
“I think this is something worth supporting,” said Diaz. “At the end of the day, I really just want this to be about the human element, about the people that sit next to you, about the people that you walk past and the people that you study next to.”