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On O’Neill Plaza, Students Stand In Solidarity With Immigrants

This Tuesday, Dec. 1, students stood together to form a human link on O’Neill Plaza. Despite the wind, the students held signs that cited statistics about the meaningful contributions of immigrants in the United States.

The Organization of Latin American Affairs (OLAA) came up with the idea to create a human wall about a month ago, said Luis Torres, co-president and MCAS ’16. He explained that it played off of and alluded to Donald Trump’s idea of building a wall at the Mexico-U.S. border.

“Instead of using [the wall] as a tool of separation, we’re using it as an instrument of one-ness,” Torres said.

“We want people to look beyond the reasons the media gives for immigrants coming to the United States, and listen to the real stories.”

Torres said the protest was triggered by an anonymous snapchat that was admitted into the Boston College Snapchat story in October, in which an American flag located in a dorm room was pictured with a caption reading, “Our wall trumps all walls.”

Evelyn Cortes, MCAS ’18 and OLAA protester, explained that under the flag in the Snapchat Story was Donald Trump’s quote, “Let’s make America great again.” She said that it brought a lot of anger, in combination with discomfort and sadness, to many members of the student body. She explained that OLAA is dedicated to the needs of Latinos on campus and, as a result, the group wanted to present their frustration with the circumstances.

Cortes said that the group found the protest to be a good way to use their anger to promote dialogue about both Trump’s remark and the resulting snapchat. Cortes explained that through the demonstration, she hopes to show that human connection is stronger than any wall built between the U.S. and Mexico.

“I think it’s so emotionally draining to see how students don’t understand a lot of these problems going on, but I’m so glad there’s people on campus who give me so much more hope and pride to be a BC student,” Cortes said, regarding the students participating in the human wall.

After brainstorming, the OLAA reached out to other cultural clubs on campus, including the Asian Caucus, to put their thoughts to action. Though the club members were the first to start the protest, any passerby was welcome to join in holding a sign and creating the bond. When signs ran out, people continued to join the chain.

“As you see, some people at the end aren’t holding signs but they’re part of the human link and that’s just as meaningful,” Torres said.

Though Trump’s remark and the BC Snapchat Story instigated the demonstration, Torres said there were other reasons the students stood together. He said that the clubs want to debunk common misconceptions about immigrants frequently seen in the media, especially in the presidential race.

Jovani Hernandez, co-president of OLAA and MCAS ’16, added that he wants to change the attitudes of many students here at BC.

A majority of the University’s student body likes to boast about its involvement in Arrupe, 4Boston, and other social justice oriented programs, but when demonstrations and campaigns on issues like immigration and racial injustice occur on campus, it responds with an overwhelming sense of apathy, invalidation, and hostility,” Hernandez said. “Being ‘men and women for others’ should not be confined to service trips abroad or along the Appalachia Mountain Range. It is a process to be carried out on a day-to-day basis.

Hernandez said that he does not expect everyone to agree with every issue he voices, but he still hopes to engage in conversation. He said that there will be many topics of conversation on social media popping up second semester via the hashtag #TheTruthAboutImmigrants.

Jenny Penafiel, vice president of OLAA and CSOM ’17, said that she hopes the protest fosters conversation particularly about what it means to be an immigrant.

“There is so much more behind the immigrant experience than moving to a new country,” Penafiel said. “We want people to look beyond the reasons the media gives for immigrants coming to the United States, and listen to the real stories that would make immigrants so much more relatable and one of us, as opposed to being seen as an outside threat.”

Featured Image by Alexandra Allam / Heights Editor

December 1, 2015

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