Students and university officials honored Constitution Day with an event titled “It’s Our Constitution Too,” Constitution Day is a federal celebration of the Constitution’s ratification and those who have become U.S. citizens. The event was held on Friday, Sept. 15, and the Constitution Day was on Sept. 17th.
The event focused on students who are immigrants, or whose parents were immigrants, and some of the students read excerpts of the Constitution. Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s associate vice president of federal relations, explained the importance of organizing the event around immigration. “We are having Constitution Day like this because of all the attention that is focused on immigration issues and our undocumented students, and those are issued that the university is very engaged in.”
The event also functioned as a public display of support for Georgetown’s “Dreamers,” or students who are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, with many relevant organizations tabling in Red Square. Friends of Dreamers, a student organization that encourages students to write to their senators and representatives in Congress to support “Dreamers,” had a table at the event. Representatives from GU Votes, an organization which helps students register to vote, were also present.
Arelis Palacios, the newly-appointed associate director of student affairs for undocumented students, also spoke at the event. Palacios highlighted the need for Constitution Day to be organized uniquely this year, with the descendents of immigrants or immigrants themselves reading excerpts from the Constitution. “There has been a concerted effort on behalf of the university to make sure we are protecting all students irrespective of their immigration status.”
Palacios began the event by reading from the U.S. Supreme Court Case Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 ruling that allows undocumented students to have access to K-12 schooling. Palacios, who was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, spoke about the importance of this ruling. “As a native Nicaraguan and as an immigrant myself I am hyper-aware of the ability and the opportunity that is afforded to students if and when they are given the ability to learn and to contribute back to their communities.”
Palacios thinks that the Constitution Day event reflects Georgetown’s broader support of undocumented students. “Georgetown is very supportive [of undocumented students]. My position was created by the administration in concert with student activism so I do believe we are a very ‘undocu-friendly’ climate, which speaks volumes of the university,” she said.
Image Credit: Jake Maher