Walter Chidozie Anyanwu
Two VCU alumni organized a Dec. 1 protest in Washington D.C. in solidarity with the caravan of Central American refugees that has been steadily making its way toward the U.S.-Mexico border for the past few months.
The event, organized by Marwa Eltaib and Alejandra Quinonez, was publicized on social media using the #StopTheTears hashtag. Protesters marched from John Marshall Park to the White House Saturday morning chanting “stand up, fight back” and “no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.” Their goal was to make their voices heard and stand against the “inhumane U.S actions at the border.”
Wanda Hernández, a graduate student at the University of Maryland College Park and VCU alumna, gave a speech midway through the protest to illustrate the frustrations the refugees are experiencing. She said the migrants’ decisions to leave their countries of origin were not easy — rather, they were born out of an urgent need to escape various injustices that made it impossible to remain in their countries. Protesters also compared the situation to historical events such as the Trail of Tears.
“There is a history of the U.S. widely denying asylum to the majority of Central Americans,” Hernández said. “In the 1970s and ‘80s, when Central America was distraught amidst civil war and no human body was immune to the violence, we arrived at the border seeking mercy. Instead [of receiving mercy], we’re called economic immigrants … even after the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act under the Reagan administration.”
Eltaib said “international laws and provisions” exist to protect the rights of migrants like those arriving at the U.S. border from Central America.
“This is a human rights issue … we have a responsibility to these people not only as Americans but as citizens of the world,” Eltaib said. “Some of the things that the Trump administration and past administrations have done concerning immigration need to be [revisited] and addressed.”
The VCU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted a dialogue Nov. 29 presented by their diversity ambassadors — covering topics including immigration, detention centers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The dialogue highlighted the issues faced by refugees and the importance of promoting tolerance.
OMSA director Greta Franklin said the dialogue is a step forward in educating the VCU community on immigration issues and that it was timely because of its connection to the VCU common book “Tell Me How It Ends” by Valeria Luiselli.
“It’s really educational and also helps people understand that some things [about immigrants] are misconceptions, and not really accurate information,” Franklin said.