By Maritza Cruz
Protests erupted inside an Arizona Board of Regents meeting Thursday in the North Ballroom of the University of Arizona Student Union. During the call to audience, students voiced their concerns over their safety from deportation.
Under President Barack Obama, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provided an administrative relief to young undocumented immigrants from deportation. The students that spoke during the call to audience are DACA students.
Mira Patel and Ana Mendoza, UA DACA students, organized the protest with about 60 attendees.
“It’s just students who were impacted and students who support the movement banding together for this,” said Patel, a freshman majoring in economics.
Perla Rojas, UA DACA freshman majoring in psychology, said some undocumented students have been targeted on campus. She said there was an instance when a woman walked up to Patel and Mendoza’s table and said they did not deserve to be on campus.
“With the current political upheaval, my presence in America has been jeopardized,” Rojas said. “I need a safe space that will fight for my education, my presence and my protection.”
In February, at a board meeting on the Arizona State University campus, students asked the board for sanctuary campuses. A sanctuary campus is a college or university in the United States that adopts policies to protect their undocumented students.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Eileen Klein, board president, said they did not want to jeopardize their campuses.
Students who were scattered throughout the ballroom stood or raised a fist in solidarity as Mendoza addressed the board.
“Here at the U of A campus we even make statements like, ‘Every individual and group at the UA is a critical component of and contributor to diversity and inclusiveness. Making a difference in diversity at the University of Arizona is the essence of inclusive excellence,’” Mendoza said. “However, this goes back to the fact that students get many words but little to no actions.”
Mendoza, a freshman majoring in political science, said the lack of action has forced students to issue a list of demands.
Some of their demands are for Arizona public institutions to declare safe spaces, provide resources for students and their families facing deportation, provide Know-Your-Rights presentations in multiples languages, create rapid response network to assist students of their family members who have been detained, prohibit immigration law enforcement on campus, prohibit campus police from enforcing immigration law and to continue to provide DACA students with in-state tuition.
After Mendoza’s speech, a student who was standing in solidarity shouted, “When our students are under attack, what do we do?” Student’s voices echoed throughout the ballroom in unison, “Stand up fight back!” The chanting continued as the protestors exited the ballroom and into the lobby. Several protestors held homemade signs that read “Immigrants we get the job done” and “Sanctuary Now.”
Seconds later, a UA representative told the protestors they would have to go outside to protest. Students objected and said they could protest in any public space. Eventually, the protestors a few feet away outside.
“I believe that our voices are being silenced, but we will comply with them and find our own ways to be heard,” Patel said.
A complete list of demands and a petition can be found on the Arizona Sanctuary Campuses movement online resolution.