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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU DREAM Action hosts Coming Out of the Shadows

Emily Beebe
A group of students stand outside Altgeld Hall holding signs during the Coming Out of the Shadows event Wednesday. The Coming Out of the Shadows event included speeches, a march to President Lisa Freeman’s office, a musical performance by Monotone and free tacos. (Emily Beebe | Northern Star)

DeKALB – The chant “undocumented, unafraid” was heard throughout MLK Commons at NIU’s annual Coming Out of the Shadows event on Wednesday.

Coming Out of the Shadows gives NIU’s undocumented students and allies a chance to unite on campus to speak about their experiences and to come out of the shadows, according to NIU Today. NIU has hosted this event for the last 11 years.

Individuals from different resources on campus such as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, and Student Wellness gave solidarity statements at the event.

Tim Paquette, director of Counseling and Consultation Services, gave a solidarity statement and emphasized that counseling for undocumented students to receive support is available.

“I want to emphasize that free counseling is available at CCS to provide both short-term and long-term support to students, and CCS counselors have completed undocumented student ally training to provide culturally informed support. I’m an ally, our staff are allies as we do this important work,” Paquette said. “It’s also, I think, important to hear that 55% of the students this year come to CCS seeking support, identify as black, indigenous or people of color.”

Student speakers who work at the Undocumented Resource Center shared their stories and experiences.

Wendy Mendez, a student employee with the Undocumented Resource Center, said the university needs to provide employment opportunities for undocumented students. 

“Still, it is the responsibility of higher education institutions to set up students for success since they have no problem collecting tuition and fees. That is why DREAM Action demands that NIU create employment opportunities for undocumented students without DACA,” Mendez said. “It is OK to pay thousands of dollars in tuition, but it’s not OK to work in the library or the student center or the dining halls.”

Other student and ally speakers shared their experiences of being undocumented or coming from a mixed-status family, meaning members of the student’s family are undocumented.

Tanya Cabrera, who works with undocumented students at the University of Illinois Chicago and works to pass legislation supporting the immigrant community throughout the state of Illinois, noted the strides NIU has made so far.

“I wanted to note that NIU was the first institution to come out publicly for undocumented students, and I’m so happy that you did this,” Cabrera said. “NIU is the only institution in the state of Illinois that actually has someone with the title Undocumented Student Liaison, but we get to set the example.”

Four Poets, One Mic, a group that focuses on spoken word and performing poems about social issues, appeared at the event to recite a poem called “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Every year at the Coming Out of the Shadows event, the Undocumented Resource Center creates demands that can help make NIU more friendly to undocumented students.

This year’s demands include:

  • Developing an Indigenous Resource Center
  • The allocation of a larger office for the Undocumented Student Resource Center
  • Housing and meal plans for undocumented students both on and off-campus
  • Internship and work scholarship opportunities for undocumented students without work authorization
  • An online module for onboarding staff that focuses on being an ally to undocumented people
  • The NIU Foundation to actively fundraise for undocumented students

After speeches, students marched to NIU President Lisa Freeman’s office in Altgeld Hall to drop off the demands they want to see enacted. Students recited chants such as “No papers, no fear” and “No justice, no peace.”

Alexandra Alcantar, a senior political science major and co-president of DREAM Action NIU, said DREAM Action will meet with Freeman and her staff after the event.

“With the demands we actually, afterward, meet with President Freeman and their staff and we go and talk about them and talk about what NIU is doing to fulfill our demands,” Alcantar said.

Students were able to receive free tacos after the march and enjoy a performance in the Huskie Den by Monotone.

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