Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Director of El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies at University of Connecticut and member of the West Hartford Board of Education, Lucas Codognolla, Executive Director of CT Students for a Dream and Camille Kirtzman, Hartford regional organizer for CT Students for a Dream, led a conversation on challenges facing undocumented students. Conversation focused on the push to make cities and campuses “sanctuaries” where local officials will not collaborate with federal Immigration and customs enforcements (ICE) to deport students or other undocumented persons, the impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric on students, and CT Students for a Dream latest advocacy campaign Afford to Dream, a legislative initiative to allow undocumented students to receive financial aid at state colleges.
Mr. Overmyer-Velázquez rooted the conversation in the language of “coming out.” In recent years, people and students lacking citizenship or documentation have “come out” (similar to how members of the LGBTQ community “come out”) as undocumented. Mr. Codognolla discussed the ways in which he came and comes out as undocumented and the power of telling his personal story to change minds and mobilize people to act. Participants noted that the challenges facing people who are undocumented are not new; deportation and anti-immigrant rhetoric existed under President Obama and previous administrations, though more attention has been paid to these issues in recent months. Ms. Kirtzman encouraged participants to follow the leadership of undocumented students as well as act in coalitions to bring about change; when different groups with different identities come together widespread change can happen.
Inspiration to Action