Texas Christian University graduate student Mayra Guardiola was surrounded by supportive, cheering peers at the Clean Dream Act rally she helped organize on campus Wednesday.
As the March 5 deadline nears for Congress to come up with a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a group of about 25 students, faculty and community members chanted “Si se puede” (Yes we can) during speeches that emphasized the negative effects of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
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But when the time came to deliver a letter to university Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr., Guardiola left his office in tears.
The letter asked for Boschini to publicly respond to questions about what TCU will do to support undocumented community members, according to Guardiola and others who spoke to him after the rally.
“He shared some perspectives that did not reflect, in my humble opinion, a culturally competent attitude,” said Mindia Whittier, a professor at UT Arlington and who was in the room with Guardiola.
In a statement, TCU spokeswoman Holly Ellman said: "It is not unusual for Texas Christian University faculty, staff and students to engage in timely discussions or civic activities within their communities. In fact, we encourage them to do so. The University's expectation is that such activities are always within the law, along with upholding and aligning with the University's core values and mission statement. TCU is a microcosm of society and is not isolated from the affairs of the day; rather, it uses such events as learning opportunities to broaden understanding and perspective.”
Guardiola said that she had organized another rally but that she felt the university has still been silent about the issue.
“As a student, I haven’t received any emails about any kind of initiatives TCU has done to better support staff, faculty and community members,” she said. “With the decision looming over our heads and so much uncertainty and so many people questioning and being fearful of being in public...It’s up to our leaders on campus to make everyone feel welcome, even the most vulnerable.”
On Sept. 6, one day after President Donald Trump announced that he would not renew DACA, the university released a statement on behalf of the chancellor saying, "TCU will continue to adhere to all applicable laws and university policies and guidelines, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which applies to all students, regardless of immigration status."
The group next went to the office of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth. Both Guardiola and Whittier said they have been trying to get a meeting with her to discuss DACA for the last two months but they haven’t been able to.
“We are her [constituents] and we as her people have the right to ask what she’s going to do,” Guardiola said.
Granger said in September that Congress should find a way to reach a consensus and pass a permanent solution to the Dreamers issue.
Jonathan Villalobos, a junior strategic communications major at TCU, said his fraternity brother is a DACA recipient. While he himself is a U.S. citizen, he said is afraid that his friend can be here one day and gone the next.
“I feel a responsibility to be here, not just as a friend or as a DACA recipient but as a Latino, because I feel DACA is much bigger than just those who have it,” Villalobos said. “It becomes a Latino problem because how do you know that I’m not on DACA? Or your neighbor? It kind of puts a label on all Latinos, like that we don’t belong here.”
Whittier said that with DACA expiring in just a few weeks, she hopes it will put pressure on the university and politicians.
“We can’t be shackled by respectability and proper politics,” she said. “It is time, even though it might be consequential for those of us who have the ability to do so, that we come forward to advocate and there’s a lack in this community of people who are in positions of authority and power and influence who are willing to do that.”