Honoring Spanish Heritage at York College

By Ashley Oliver

York College’s Student Government Association said they are opposed to the rift between students who came to America illegally and the CUNY faculty.

To honor Spanish Heritage month, the association hosted an event called, “Spanish Festival: Coming to America”. Along with some members from CUNY’s non-profit organization, DREAMers, undocumented students from various CUNY schools shared their experiences about being labeled an immigrant in America.

“No one deserves to be called an alien,” said Rachelle Antoine, the Student Government Club Council President. “America is supposed to be the land of the free and the melting pot. CUNY should have more programs for that since it’s a city university in the most diverse place in the world.”

Some students believe the rift between undocumented students and faculty is exacerbated by the way some faculty members speak to them.

Gianni Gustave, a 23-year old senior at York, said, “Sometimes I feel ostracized. Because I have an accent, it just seems like some faculty mock me or don’t take me as seriously as everyone else.”

“Every faculty member at CUNY will say they support DREAMers, but when they find out at the Registrar’s Office or Admissions’ Office that you’re undocumented, some of them treat you very rude. It’s an anti-immigrant feeling,” said Percy Lujan, an alumni from Lehman College.

Members of the DREAMers program are eligible for job security, a driver’s license, and a social security number. As of this year, twelve scholarships exist for members of the program. CUNY colleges also promise to provide the undocumented students with resources and support to be successful during their academic career, according to CUNY’s Central Office of Student Affairs’ (COSA) website.

Still, York’s Student Government Association believes more needs to be done for the students.

Student Government Executive Director, Jerome Barrett said, “There needs to be more full blown services for every single student in the DREAMers program.”

“There needs to be more promotion in CUNY about services for undocumented students,” added Janna Rodriguez, Student Government treasurer. “They need to make the information visible for those who may not know where to go.  [York’s] website needs to promote the CUNY DREAMers conference because some people don’t even know it exists.”

September 2015 statistics conducted by Pew Research reveal that out of 11.3 million undocumented citizens in America, 60 percent are Hispanic. In contrast, 41 percent of Americans believe that immigrants are a burden to the country by taking jobs, health care, and housing, according to Pew Research.

Some students said they are indecisive about starting a life in America because of the overt prejudice against them.

Junior Social Work major, Jacqueline Jiminez, said, “My friend got involved in [DREAMers] because she didn’t feel comfortable in her own school. That’s got to stop now.”

“Some land of the free,” said Lujan. “Undocumented immigrants or not, we are all people. I don’t understand why I don’t feel at home when I came here to school for the same reason as everyone else. To learn.”

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