Undocumented students rally


By Carlos Galvez

With tears rolling down their cheeks, undocumented students came out of the shadows and told the truth of their status in front of students and faculty in a rally Tuesday.

Students gathered in the MLK Commons to attend the Coming Out of the Shadows rally where undocumented students tell their stories about coming to the United States and facing struggles others don’t have. Peers also spoke in support of undocumented students.

The first rally — held March 10, 2010, in Chicago — saw 1,000 people march between Union Park and Federal Plaza.

Sophomore sociology major Sara Briseno was responsible for organizing the rally at NIU. Briseno is vice president of Rockford DREAM Action, an organization in Rockford that educates the community about immigration issues.

Briseno said around the time the first rally was held she was inspired to do something about undocumented students and their problems. At the time, she was undocumented and wanted to help.

“At NIU we have policies that affect undocumented students, and this rally is to spread the word that we’re not different than other people,” Briseno said.

Briseno said undocumented students at NIU are told to say they are documented students to not get in trouble. They cannot receive financial aid because of their status. Briseno said NIU President Doug Baker said he supports undocumented students but hasn’t done anything to address the issues they face.

Tanya Cabrera, an alumnus and chair of the Illinois Dream Fund Commission, said her and the committee give undocumented students scholarships. Cabrera said students who attend four-year colleges are given a $6,000 scholarship and students who attend a two-year community college are given $2,000 scholarships.

“We try to help take off the financial burden for students, but we also help create long-term goals for students,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera is responsible for collecting the applications of undocumented students and deciding which students deserve the scholarship.

Gladys Sanchez, junior special education major, wiped away tears as she spoke to the group of students at Tuesday’s rally.

“We are all human beings and we deserve the right to be here. We all breathe the same air,” Sanchez said.

Lizbeth Roman, sophomore community leadership and civic engagement major, is a supporter of undocumented students and has family who were deported because they were undocumented. Roman said on March 31, Baker wrote a piece for the Rockford Register Star that said some of NIU’s most motivated, hardest-working students are DREAMers, or students who came to the United States as children with their parents. He said “DREAMers deserve access to the same opportunities afforded to millions of their peers.”

“So while I appreciate the message and support, I challenge you to take actions … in helping to provide resources to our undocumented students,” Roman said, addressing Baker’s message.