Supporting Our Most Vulnerable

April 7, 2017

Each time I have the opportunity to pass by Healy Hall, I can’t help but think of how fortunate I am to be at an institution like Georgetown. I look at how magnificent the building is and often wonder whether I am living in reality or not. It just seems so surreal.

But after the 2016 presidential election, I began to feel a disconnect between how grateful I was to be here and whether or not I belonged. Each time I walked by Healy Hall, I could not help but think about my undocumented status. I repeatedly questioned what could happen to me and my ability to be in this country, especially as there was uncertainty surrounding President Obama’s executive action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which President Trump vowed to rescind while on the campaign trail.

Frankly, I questioned whether or not I should continue to work toward obtaining a degree. Is it worth it? Why should I pursue this if I will not be able to obtain a job without my DACA work authorization? The election of President Trump has brought about a huge wave of uncertainty for my family and me.

Very quickly, however, I found myself surrounded by a community of caring and supportive individuals. It became less about future job prospects or about getting a degree. These things didn’t matter. Instead, I found strength through community, and this allowed me to once again see myself, and my place at this university, as something that I should never question. I found support and allyship through the Muslim Student Association, Campus Ministry, the Georgetown Scholarship Program, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, and so many other offices on campus. The uncertainty disappeared, and I could again see Healy with the same sense of pride and gratitude as I did before.

I finally understand Georgetown’s commitment that regardless of my identity as an undocumented, low-income, first-generation Latino, I can flourish (even when just 2 miles away from our campus, there are political forces debating my human existence). I finally understand Georgetown’s mission to be more than a simple phrase admissions officers have to repeat to get students to come here. It is actually something the university stood by.

As a member of the undocumented student population on campus, I feel tremendously grateful for all the measures the university has taken to support my community. This support has included the launching of a website, undocumented.georgetown.edu, which details the support system for undocumented students; a partnership with Catholic Charities, which provides legal services to undocumented students; and the hiring of our first-ever part-time undocumented student advisor. These, among other things, have shown how supportive the university has been towards my community.

Now, however, it is imperative that, as a community, we take a clear stand to support those who are most vulnerable. Undocumented students are not the only students in difficult situations. There are students from mixed-status families who are struggling with the fear that their parents might be deported. There are Muslim students who continue to encounter Islamophobic rhetoric and policies.  There are LGBT students who continue to face discrimination for their identity and for who they love. There are Jewish students who face increasing waves of anti-Semitism. There are so many in vulnerable circumstances. We must all stand in solidarity with each other.

I encourage everyone to try to understand the vast array of experiences, worries, and frustrations simultaneously present on this campus. The truth is, we all come from different places and might not be well-versed in the experiences of others. It is a learning experience for all of us, and the least we can do is be willing to understand the complex identities of others—so have an open mind and an open heart. Listen attentively to our journeys and stories and help us change the narrative that perpetuates our marginalization.

After all, we are all Hoyas.

Luis is a sophomore in the College.

Cover artwork by Elizabeth Pankova

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