Activist's Talk Raises Awareness about Undocumented Students
October 05, 2015
by Elise Goitia '18
Knox College students gained new insights by attending activist Maria Gonzales' lecture on the obstacles that undocumented students in the United States face today.
"I have a friend who's undocumented, and that was what initially got me interested," said Jake Erickson '15. "I got a better understanding of the experience that a lot of undocumented migrants face on a daily basis on college campuses. It's cool to experience that firsthand and learn ways that we can help students more easily assimilate on college campuses and make their experiences more bearable."
Gonzales journeyed to Knox on September 24 to lecture on her experiences as an activist for undocumented immigrants living in America. An undocumented student herself, she co-founded the youth organization Undocumented Students and Allies in order to assist vulnerable migrants. She also helped start an event at the Illinois Institute of Technology to encourage undocumented students to share their stories.
"We called it, 'Coming Out of the Shadows,'" said Gonzales. "We decided we needed to organize and free ourselves. People started coming out and wearing shirts that said 'undocumented.' Nobody had done that before. People had been afraid to even say, 'undocumented.'"
Triggered into activism after she watched a fellow student struggle through legal proceedings due to his undocumented status, Gonzales has since organized students to gain better benefits and fight against prejudice toward their undocumented peers and their families.
Through her lecture, Gonzales addressed many of the legal difficulties of undocumented families and children, such as a lack of benefits for immigrants within detention centers and the result of undocumented parents' children unwillingly being put into foster care after their removal.
Knox students who attended the lecture said they were taken aback by what they heard.
"I'm actually a part of M.E.Ch.A.," said Liz Rivera '17. "I've had experience with a lot of undocumented people, so I was really interested in what she had to say to get more informed. Everything she had to say and how we need to step up in a peaceful way interested me."
Gonzales implored Knox students to do all they can to support and welcome their fellow classmates who live as undocumented students.