Liz Curran-Groome ’18
In a walk-out on Dec. 1, around 250 students gathered and marched down Elm Street in a display of solidarity that aimed to mobilize the community around the issue of undocumented students’ rights on Smith’s campus. Students blocked traffic as they made their way from the Campus Center to College Hall. Beneath the wrought-iron archway of the institution on the lawn of College Hall, speakers from organizations both on campus and from the larger community, came together to speak to the dire state of undocumented peoples’ rights in the face of a Trump administration.
Organizing for Undocumented Students’ Rights (OUSR) was the student organization that facilitated the walk-out, collaborated with campus police to block the road for a safe march and organized the speakers. These included representatives from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center as well as several students who either are undocumented themselves, or have undocumented family. The event was also in solidarity with Local 211 and the Dining and Housekeeping staff that have been working on negotiating their contract with the administration for many months. A staff representative spoke at the walkout expressing, “we’re always here for you students, we support you.”
The demands that OUSR outlined in conjunction with this action (a copy of which was sent to President McCartney and then to the Board of Trustees) focused on tangible policies the administration should pledge to uphold to protect undocumented students. Examples include ensuring that Campus Police refuse to cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the event that they show up to persecute undocumented students and making sure Smith remains financially feasible for undocumented students, who are currently treated as domestic students under the Smith financial aid guidelines, should their federal work-study be revoked.
Signs in the crowd that read “no human is illegal” spoke to the feelings expressed by some of the students who described the isolation and fear that undocumented people experience, especially in the face of a president-elect who has promised to repeal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the legislation that enables undocumented students who arrived as children to attend school within the U.S. The spirit of the event was one of defiance, resistance and community. Multiple speakers invoked the word “revolution” while speaking about the way our nation has left so many of our own citizens, as well as those who we deny citizenship to, despite their invaluable contributions to our society, with neither a voice nor a true method of representation.