On the Record: GUSA Candidates Arisaid Gonzalez Porras and Anahi Figueroa-Flores

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February 4, 2020

Photo illustration by Hannah Song

The Voice sat down with GUSA executive ticket Arisaid Gonzalez Porras (COL ’21) and Anahi Figueroa-Flores (COL ’21) to discuss their platform of prioritizing low-income, first-generation students of color ahead of the GUSA Executive election on Feb. 6.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The Voice: Could you tell us a little about yourselves and what you’ve done over your Georgetown careers?

Arisaid Gonzalez Porras: My name is Arisaid Gonzalez Porras. I am a junior in the College majoring in American Studies and minoring in Spanish. I usually start with my identity: I am undocumented, currently protected under DACA—we’ll see how long that lasts—but I moved to this country when I was one from Veracruz, Mexico, and I was raised in Mesa, Arizona. Before college, I applied to like 80 scholarships, because not having citizenship limited you in so many ways. Georgetown ended up being the lucky school. Before my freshman year, I did the Community Scholars Program, and that helped a lot with transitioning to Georgetown. I’m also part of the Georgetown Scholars Program, which helps a lot with first gen and a lot of the resources when it comes to the financial aspect of everything. My sophomore year, [and] towards the end of my freshman year—that was when DACA, the Dream Act, got huge momentum. And then Anahi and I got involved with United We Dream, which is a local nonprofit that is immigrant youth-led. We started getting involved with them, attending protests. We realized Georgetown was missing that activism piece and that advocacy for undocumented students. [Hoyas for Immigrant Rights (HFIR)] was kind of in the dust, and so we picked it up as freshmen, did a budget and everything. We started at CAB Fair. We had our own shirts that said DREAM Act. We were bright orange, screaming, we got like 300 sign-ups that day. This year, our junior year, we were able to pull off a whole protest, which was amazing. We mobilized 157 students from Georgetown; we walked to Dupont and then protested. So that’s mostly what I’ve been involved in. I’m a Patrick Healy Fellow with [the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access] and a Baker Scholar within the College.

Anahi Figueroa-Flores: She’s amazing [laughs]. My name is Anahi Figueroa-Flores. I grew up in Commerce City, Colorado. I also am undocumented, protected by DACA. Looking at Georgetown, I never even thought I would be accepted. My transition was kind of rough, just experiencing imposter syndrome. I felt like I didn’t belong in classrooms. I’m majoring in computer science and double minoring in sociology and art. Especially in STEM classes, I just felt really out of place. But fast-forward to now, I am vice president of HFIR, and I think that has been one of the greatest experiences. Seeing that community evolve has really helped me grow and find a community here at Georgetown. I also work at the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, as a pre-college programs intern. And I also work at Student Affairs, which is right next to CMEA. Oh, and then Hoya Saxa Weekend: we bring in accepted students, and they’re all students of color. We show them what Georgetown is. I’m part of the publicity team, so I do all of the graphics, and videos, and throughout the weekend take pictures.

TV: Why are you running for GUSA exec?

AGP: So, our decision came spontaneously. We are definitely the rookies here. We did it as an Instagram poll type of thing—we got like 200 responses to go for it! And so we were literally just eating lunch at our dorm, and our friends were all like, ‘Why? Why not run? You guys have done so much for this campus and you guys have the tools and skills and then with GUSA, you could make a real change.’ And so we were like, ‘Okay, we need a petition.’ We didn’t even know we needed a petition. So we contacted the Speaker of the House, and he’s like, ‘yeah, you need a hundred signatures by Saturday.’ So we were like, ‘well, we won’t get them in like 24 hours. That’s impossible.’ So we just put it on group chats, and we got them within an hour and a half. And, bam! We’re on the ballot! Looking back, I’m really excited for this, because if we do win, I have so many ideas of what I want to do. And again, for transparency, I don’t know how GUSA works. So I don’t know how effective it can be, but I’m technically running to empower other students that are in my same boat or can identify with me. Coming as a first gen, low-income— literally fully undocumented, probably soon—it’s never been done, at least not on this campus, and not that I know nationwide. So even if we don’t win, I know that so many students have come up to us and have been like, ‘y’all are changing something on campus.’ And honestly, that for me is already a win.

AFF: It was really spontaneous. I was hesitant to even run for GUSA. I was like, ‘I need to think about this.’ Just me and my imposter syndrome—it came in. But now thinking back, it’s just empowering students. I’m sure other students feel the same way I felt freshman year and sophomore year. So I think it’s about just having the representation we need on campus and showing students that they also can do this, and that they don’t have to feel this way.

TV: What are the issues you’ll really be focusing on in your campaign and if you’re elected?

AGP: If you ask us, ‘What is GUSA?’ I can’t give you an answer, generally. And I’m sure if you pick a random student walking through ICC Square, they’ll say the same thing. I think if we end up getting elected to GUSA, it’s bridging that gap. I would literally go onto HoyaLink and email every single club. Because it’s one thing to come up with all these policies. But do you know what students really want? Have you gone and talked to them? That’s our thing: we organize, we mobilize. If I do end up getting into GUSA, it’ll be like, ‘Black House, Casa Latina—all these cultural clubs don’t feel represented in any way, and the administration continues to fail them when things happen in the community—what kind of policies would you like to see in GUSA that we can implement?’ So when anyone asks us, ‘what specific policies?’ I’m like, ‘I honestly cannot tell you,’ and I don’t want to make fake promises that I know I’m not going to be able to fulfill. It’s honestly, for me, again, communicating what the community needs and in all forms. If I put my main priorities, it will be for the low-income, first gen people of color. Because even when we get asked questions, none of those identities are ever included.

AFF: And I think part of the problem with GUSA is that it’s not approachable, right? People think of GUSA as an organization that doesn’t even make change, I think that’s part of the problem, right? One of the things that we would focus on is making them more approachable. I want students to come up to me and tell me their problems. I want to help them. I want to be approachable for them. And so, I guess, communicating with them. Because GUSA has so many resources that I don’t know about and other students don’t know about. It’s just bridging that gap and honestly just helping students.

TV: If elected, how will you implement your policies? What do you think will be the greatest challenge in implementing your platform and what would you want to get out of your platform?

AGP: So we were looking into Nico and Bryce’s campaign, and Aleida and Norman’s, to see how they went about it. And we saw they were creating committees. And that’s how we do it with HFIR: we split into five committees all depending on different topics. That’s how we would go about it with GUSA. Our goal is to have the main leaders of our committees be women of color, period. Radical, powerful, period. And then, within those committees we would want to have one that’s LGBTQIA+ focused, another one that’s for the centers, whether that’s the LGBTQ Center or Women’s Center, CMEA, GSP. Another one to focus on sustainability. I know there’s a lot of important issues that are happening on campus, whether mental health, sustainability efforts—there’s so many more. We would use the summer to be like, ‘Ok, let’s catch on to the main priorities for campus based on what other campaigns were doing in the past, and what the campaigns running were trying to do.’ That’s the way I would go about things. This would be coming from what the community wants.

AFF: I think the biggest challenge would be just because we don’t know how GUSA works or how much power we have. And also, it’s all a bureaucracy. So I don’t even know who we go to. I think it would be just like learning about GUSA and how the structure is.

TV: How are you planning to work with the administration and students on issues such as fossil fuel divestment and sustainability, the GU272 referendum, and Title IX concerns? 

AGP: So when we deal with people in power, how do you convince them and where do you put pressure? If we have to do sit-ins, if we have to mobilize, if we have to literally spend days in the president’s office to have him do something, I’m willing to do it. I’m so tired of administrators or politicians thinking they have more power than us and thinking that we’re just random students that are screaming and yelling with no effective reason. If these are our needs, then you should be listening to them, because ultimately we make up Georgetown. So it’d be better mobilizing, talking to GU 272 people—how can GUSA help and be more effective? We have connections with outside organizations and nonprofits. People fear media. Georgetown wants good media. That would be my way of going about certain issues like this.

AFF: I think from the administration, you hear a lot about surface-level support. They’re not really doing anything, they just provide the basic support. Change comes from students. And we have experience with HFIR and United We Dream. We’ve done sit-ins, we’ve done other protests. We organized a whole walkout. So I think we have the experience and the skills to make the administration commit to those changes and the changes that students want.

TV: You highlighted your undocumented identity in your campaign very early on. What do you think the importance of this identity is to you and your campaign?

AGP: My whole life, [it] has often been overlooked, never brought into conversations. I see it every day in classes. Even when the Corp changed to all credit cards, that affects undocumented students because people that are fully undocumented can’t even get a bank statement or a bank account. That probably never even crossed [the leader of the Corp’s] minds. Automatically when we ran, that’s the one thing we were going to put forward. We said, it’s never been done. You don’t see people being fully open about it. And, it’s a double-edged sword. [You] have full-on supporters that are like, ‘we love to see it, you guys are powerful,’ and you’re going to have those people that disagree, that do not condone undocumented students or whatever. And so it was a risky move for us to do. But like I said, I’m tired of getting overlooked and I think that carries a huge thing of being unafraid. That’s what our campaign is. And our goal is hopefully to inspire others to speak up and no longer feel like they have to be in the shadows.

TV: If you could play a song every time you walked into a room, what would it be and why? You each get your own.

AGP: I think I got mine. So I got into Star Wars, right? So I think I would play the theme song. I was telling her too, if we win, we’re gonna play the Star Wars song.

AFF: I don’t even know. Maybe like a pop song. So like Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, tapping a beat. You know, you’re just walking, and it’s powerful.

AGP: Or like also, Alicia Keys, “Girl on Fire”?

AFF: Yeah, there you go. [laughs]

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[…] “Our decision came spontaneously. We are definitely the rookies here,” said Arisaid Gonzalez Porras in an article for The Georgetown Voice. […]