Teach-in on immigration explores policy and personal experience

Student activists hosted a teach-in to educate the Emerson community on the complexities of the immigration system and the difficulties of leading an undocumented life on April 2.

The teach-in, organized by Understanding National Immigration Through Education and sponsored by the Elma Lewis Center, fostered discussion among about a dozen students on U.S. immigration policies. The three panelists also focused on ways to defend and support immigrant communities.

Laura Londoño, president of UNITE and a lead organizer for the event, is undocumented. Even as someone who deals with immigration services frequently, understanding and navigating the system is difficult for her.

“This is all I’ve ever known, but I learn things on the daily,” Londoño said.

This is Londoño’s second year organizing a teach-in on immigration. Last year, she spearheaded a petition to make Emerson a sanctuary campus.

“[Immigration] is not an issue that we talk about on campus as much as we should,” she said. “There is a ton of ignorance surrounding immigration, so we tried to combat that, just a little bit.”   

Molli Freeman-Lynde, staff attorney at the Irish International Immigrant Center, kicked-off the teach-in with a presentation on legal paths to citizenship and residency. She emphasized it is not easy to get a green card, a permit allowing someone to live and work permanently in the U.S.    

“There’s definitely one sort of public discourse around how easy it is [to immigrate] … It’s really really misleading,” Freeman-Lynde said. “There’s a very limited number of people who are eligible to be sponsored, and in most cases, there’s a really long wait to come anyway.”

She also explained that unlike other options, people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protective Status do not have a path to permanent residency or citizenship. The labels are just temporary fixes, she said.

Recipients of DACA or TPS must renew their statuses to avoid deportation. Often, these renewals are costly.

In February, UNITE and Emerson’s Black Organization With Natural Interest hosted The Black Rainbow Ball to fundraise money to pay for a Salvadoran Sodexo worker’s TPS renewal.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has ended both programs.  

Another panelist at the event was Valeria Do Vale, the lead coordinator at the Student Immigrant Movement. Do Vale said her mother and her sister are undocumented. Do Vale qualifies for DACA, but her status expires in October.

Do Vale wants people to change the way they think about immigration. It’s not just about DACA, she said.

“When people say, ‘We want a clean DREAM act now,’ like that’s still leaving my mom out. That’s still leaving a lot of folks out,” Do Vale said. “I invite folks to think about the different narratives and think about all the different folks that are being impacted.”

For Londoño, she said she wanted one thing from the teach-in.  

“If one person left the event thinking that they had learned something, that’s what defines success for me,” Londoño said.   

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