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Students from nine universities in the Chicago area, many of whom acknowledged they are undocumented immigrants, rallied with 60 or so students gathered in Bartlett Quad for immigration reform yesterday.
“Education, Not Deportation,” chanted the crowd, which was dotted with T-shirts that read, “Do I look illegal?” in marker.
The rally was organized by the University of Chicago Coalition for Immigrant Rights (UCCIR), Immigrant Youth Justice League, and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlan. UCCIR is petitioning the University to meet two demands: that the University offer two merit-based scholarships to undocumented students, and that the University publicly support, through lobbying with other universities and a letter to Congress, a process by which undocumented students who attended U.S. high schools can become legal citizens.
Second-year Jonathan Rodrigues, a member of UCCIR and a Maroon columnist, led chants in between speakers. He said everyone deserved equal access to an education. “We are here today to challenge the nation and the state of Illinois to live up to the promise of opportunity,” Rodrigues said.
UCCIR recently met with Dean of the College John Boyer with its demands. According to Rodrigues, Boyer said he would look into guidance and career services for undocumented students. It was a “practical thing that could be done,” Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues said Boyer was hoping to improve financial aid offerings for all international students but that a merit-based scholarship specifically for undocumented students wasn’t feasible because $25 million is needed to endow a scholarship. Boyer also said advocacy demands were unlikely to succeed, according to Rodrigues, although policy demands are up to the president and the Board of Trustees. Rodrigues said Boyer was intrigued by Harvard’s public support of the DREAM Act, which UCCIR hopes will set a precedent the U of C will follow.
Rodrigues said the group’s next step is to reach out to the Admissions Office in hopes of making college more attainable for undocumented students.
Third-year Cindy Agustin said she used to be undocumented but was lucky enough to get her papers a few years ago. “I was afraid” to apply to college, she said, for fear of deportation. “I refuse to sit and watch more and more students have to go through the same frustrations I felt a few years back,” she said.