A migrant caravan consisting of thousands of Central Americans seeking asylum is nearing the end of its journey through Mexico toward the southern border of the United States.
In response, President Trump has ordered upward of 5,000 troops to secure the country against migrants seeking entry outside of one of the 48 legal points of entry located on the southern border.
In order to be eligible for asylum, migrants must first be categorized as refugees. The Refugee Act of 1980 defines a refugee as any person seeking protection from persecution in their home country “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”
“In the caravan that’s coming through Mexico right now, a lot of those people are seeking asylum,” said Ariana Milla Ramirez, the student coordinator for the Hispanic Latino Student Association. “That is a right that they have, to seek asylum. I don’t believe it’s right to break the law, when it comes to immigration, unless it’s necessary for survival.”
On Oct. 24, with the support of the Cultural Resource Center, AU’s Hispanic Latino Student Association participated in I Stand With Immigrants with 170 other colleges nationwide.
“It was a chance to let immigrants know that, as a campus, we stand for them,” Ramirez said of I Stand With Immigrants. “We believe that they deserve to be treated like anyone else, like human beings. We just want immigrants to know that we care about them and that we will advocate for them, stand with them and be allies.”
An immigrant herself, Ramirez understands the struggles of immigrants.
“People don’t immigrate for fun,” she said. “There are many more ways to have fun that are easier than leaving everything behind.
“I know the resilience, the dedication and the feeling of having to leave your country. I know the sacrifices they have made. A lot of them have made even more sacrifices than I have. You have to leave so much behind. You have to leave everything that’s familiar. You have to leave friends, family and your home just to be able to have a better life.”
Ramirez recalls the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and encourages others to stand up for immigrants.
In King’s words, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“If you see something going on, where someone is being mistreated in public or made fun of, stand up for immigrants,” said Ramirez. “Those who are part of the majority have more power than minorities. Standing up for someone in a minority has a big impact on both that individual and others who are like them.
“We have to realize that just because we were all born in different situations, that doesn’t mean that only some of us get treated like humans. That doesn’t mean that only some of us get a chance to follow our dreams or live comfortably.”
Ramirez reminds others to see immigrants through God’s eyes and stand up for them accordingly.
“Call things out,” she said. “If it’s not right, call it out. They’re humans too. They’re wonderful creations of God as well. It’s what’s right.”
Nia Carter, a sophomore social work major, attended I Stand With Immigrants and says, “I stand with immigrants because I am surrounded by immigrants and my life would not be what it is without them.”
Carter stresses the importance of standing with immigrants as a way to learn more about different peoples and cultures.
“I would encourage people to stand with immigrants because I feel like your life is just so much better once you do,” she said. “You’ll meet so many new people and learn so many new things. I especially want to encourage people in our age group, people who go to college, because we come to college to learn and this is a great way to do that.”
Carter also says that immigration can change the way people see the world.
“It’s interesting how, as U.S. citizens, we have been socialized to think that the U.S. is the best and only thing in the world,” she said. “It’s still hard for me to understand how big the world is and how many other cultures are out there. If we didn’t have immigration I wouldn’t understand it at all.”