After Spanish professor Aurora Camacho de Schmidt taught a course titled “Mexican Pennsylvania: the Making of a Transnational Community” last semester, Camacho de Schmidt and several members of the class have decided to create a new student activist group on campus that will focus on immigration rights. Emma Waitzman ‘14, who was a student in the class last fall, will lead the group.
The course, which discussed the disparity between society’s discussion of immigration and sociologists’, historians’ and immigrants’ interpretation of how many Mexican and Central American workers are displaced, led students to take action.
“We have been eager to see immigration law respond to reality, not the proposals based on misperceptions and outright prejudice that come from politicians such as Senator [Marco] Rubio [R-FL],” Camacho de Schmidt said. “We wanted to change the dire conditions under which workers migrate, settle, and start their new life of intense and poorly paid work in the United States.”
Although the future activist group cannot accomplish these goals single-handedly, the group plans to join a network of advocates and activists who are speaking out in favor of immigration reform. Another goal of the organization will be to partner with workers to get a better grasp of their needs.
The group, which will be student-led with faculty assistance on resources, is not Swarthmore’s first collection of students that focused on immigration issues.
“In the past, Swarthmore students did very good work on immigration, studying and also serving as translators for the many documents immigrants must submit to the authorities to regularize their status,” Camacho de Schmidt said. “Swarthmore has had a very active group involved in bringing about passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to go to college in spite of their undocumented status, offering a path to legal residence.”
With the help of Swarthmore College President Rebecca Chopp, the college supports the Dream Act on record. Swarthmore is currently among a national network of colleges and universities who support immigration reform.
To help Swarthmore assimilate into the other immigration activist colleges, Camacho de Schmidt is helping the group plan upcoming meetings, which are open to anyone on campus.
“We are hoping to invite some speakers on immigration to campus, and to participate in activities currently being organized in Philadelphia, a city that has always been very active in solidarity with immigrants through its legal institutions and community centers,” she said.
The first meeting will take place in the Keith Room, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, on Whittier Place this Friday from 2:25–3:30 p.m.
CORRECTION: An earlier edition of this article overstated Emma Waitzman ’14’s role in the creation of the group. Many students — not just her — have been deeply moved by immigration issues, and many were instrumental in creating the new organization.