UndocuRutgers hosts rally in support of immigrantsPhoto by Dimitri RodriguezUndocuRutgers hosted a march down College Avenue to support immigrants at the University. The rally is part of a larger movement with similar events being held nationwide.
More than 200 Rutgers students and faculty members marched across the College Avenue campus as a part of the national #IAmAnImmigrant day of action.
Throughout the rally, students and leaders of the march held signs and initiated chants of “Education not deportation,” “the people united are never divided” and “we are immigrants," as participants walked from the Brower Commons to The Yard at College Ave and back.
When the procession returned to the steps outside of Brower, organization leaders, faculty members and undocumented students gave speeches in support of the movement. Police were present throughout the event and escorted the procession.
The protest was organized by undocuRutgers, a recently established on-campus organization that aims to expand the rights and tolerance of undocumented students.
Josue Serrano, the vice president of undocuRutgers and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the primary goal of the march and the speeches was the creation of a sphere where undocumented students could feel supported and reassured that the student body and the faculty were standing with them.
“The day of action had a really great turnout and I think these people really embodied our message of unity,” Serrano said. “Our goal is to show how much of an impact immigrants have on this society. That we are here, we have been here and we have helped make this country what it is today.”
In response to an attempted counter-protest by the organization Rutgers for Trump, Serrano said supporters of undocuRutgers handled the situation with professionalism and civility.
“I acknowledge that whenever we have any type of event like this we will have people who are against us, but it is important that we maintain our message of togetherness despite whatever backlash we face,” Serrano said.
Carimer Andujar, the president and founder of undocuRutgers, said a major challenge faced by undocumented students at universities is they cannot apply for student aid through FASFA. This makes college less affordable and accessible to undocumented immigrants.
A similar sentiment was shared by David Hughes, president of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), in a speech he gave at the beginning of the rally. Hughes said that among the 7,000 faculty members involved with AAUP, the majority stand in solidarity with students regardless of documentation.
“I do not take fingerprints at the door of my classroom,” Hughes said. “Education knows no boundaries.”
Andujar said regardless of legislation, the most notable effect of the 2016 election has been a negative shift in perception towards immigrants. This is something undocuRutgers hopes to alter through their on-campus present.
“At the rally, we gave people an opportunity to talk about what being an immigrant means to them,” the School of Engineering junior said, “We wanted to try to reverse the anti-immigration sentiment and rhetoric that has befell the campus so heavily within the last week or so.”
As a campaign, #IAmAnImmigrant day of action extended beyond Rutgers as a part of a larger nationwide event. Similar gatherings occurred on universities across the country to recognize the positive contributions of immigrants in America, according to the campaign’s website.
Andujar said coordination between the two organizations, undocuRutgers and #IAmAnImmigrant, contributed to the rally’s magnitude and success.
Andujar founded undocuRutgers with the mission of helping a community that is often marginalized, she said. The organization plans to host a college fair for undocumented high school students on Nov. 19.
Elijah Reiss, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, participated in the day of action protest. He said that the cause was especially vital in the current political climate.
“This is something I can stand behind because both of these organizations are working to fight against the type of harmful and inflated paranoia spread by Donald Trump during this election,” Reiss said, “Assumptions that immigrants are taking away jobs or bringing crime into the country are not only false, but are also harmful.”
Reiss said this was one of the largest protests that he has seen in his time at Rutgers.
“I think it's a statement on how the University feels about these issues, that there were a couple hundred of students here advocating their support for immigrants and that there were only a few protesting against it.”
Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.