Shippensburg University students and faculty moved forward with the fight against oppression of Latin Americans on Wednesday during the Pa’lante rally and march across campus.
Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) and the Latino Students Organization (LSO), the event was a response to recent changes in the U.S.’ immigration policy, as well as President Donald Trump’s ongoing attempts to enforce a nationwide refugee ban.
The afternoon’s key speaker was José Ricardo, who is an associate professor at SU and serves as the chair of the modern languages department. He discussed his experiences immigrating to the U.S. from Colombia, and compared the process to the obstacles facing today’s immigrants under the Trump administration.
“This is the irony — the makeup of the U.S. is one of an immigration country,” Ricardo said. “But if they don’t like the way you look, the way you speak, they’ll deport you. [Whether] this administration is going to change that, it’s hard to tell.”
Ricardo said many immigrants do not understand the U.S. judicial system, and are unaware that when they are asked to report to an immigration office for a “general check-up,” they are, in some cases, about to be sent back to their home countries.
“We are all entitled to due process,” Ricardo said.
Ricardo examined the relationship history between the U.S. and Mexico, including the $15 million deal between the two countries in 1846, which led to the U.S.’s acquirement of what is now Texas.
“People in Texas still feel they are a part of Mexico, and that has created tensions,” Ricardo said. “That was a lot of money [for the U.S. to pay], but I don’t think it was enough money for the U.S. to take away all that territory.”
Despite his premonitions, Ricardo said he does not have an ill feelings toward the U.S., and encourages students to keep an open mind before making any quick judgments, particularly in light of the information broadcasted by various media organizations.
“If you’re a CNN person, listen to Fox [News]. If you’re a Fox person, listen to CNN,” Ricardo said. “You must compare and contrast, and examine both realities.”
Following Ricardo’s lecture, numerous students took to the podium in Gilbert Hall to share the reasons why they chose to march. One student, LSO president Varquidia Rosario, recited a poem, weaving together experiences from her own immigration process and her sentiments on immigration today.
“We [immigrants] cry because we are not free. We live in the U.S., but we are not considered citizens,” Rosario said. “They mistreat us, they abuse us and they pay us less than the minimum [wage].”
Shortly afterwards, the assembled students and faculty grabbed picket signs containing slogans such as “I am an immigrant, I make America great,” “no human is illegal” and “echar pa’lante.” The group proceeded to march from Gilbert Hall around the perimeter of campus to the front steps of the Ceddia Union Building.
MSA Director Diane Jefferson said she encourages students to continue to speak out about injustice until they receive full campus support.
“We have a legacy here at Shippensburg, and you’re carrying that legacy,” Jefferson said. “I can’t say that I can walk in your shoes, but I can walk beside you.”
This article has been corrected to show the deal between Mexico and the U.S. was valued at $15 million, not $50 million as previously published.