Tania Chairez showed incredible strength and resilience in coming out to our University as an undocumented student in her guest column. In doing so, she ruptured the silence that surrounds her struggle and those of students like her across our University. Over the past week, Chairez has been the recipient of both astounding support and startling hostility. The very discrimination and ignorance which she so powerfully spoke against and the tools of oppression that leave scars on the lives of the undocumented were revealed as readers attacked her presence at our University and in our country.
Much of the hatred directed at Tania was fueled by dangerous misconceptions. The Congressional Budget Office reported in 2007 that, contrary to some readers’ beliefs, many undocumented immigrants do pay federal taxes, made possible by the IRS’s issuing of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers for those ineligible for Social Security Numbers. Undocumented immigrants, therefore, help fund the roads, schools and public services that all Americans, documented or not, benefit from everyday.
The responses to Tania’s column should serve as our reminder to treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of our views on citizenship status or any other “statuses,” whether those are based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ability, religion or class. Rather than focusing on the label which our society and political system affix to her being, we should empathize with her very human struggle for legitimacy and recognize that the systemic advantages accorded to some of us gives us no right to dismiss the very real struggles of the less advantaged. Most importantly, we must see one another beyond labels, and such labels should not be the determining factor in individuals’ futures.
Without seeking to politicize the issue, and with the firm belief that education is a basic right that everyone deserves, we urge fellow students to fight for equal rights for all, not only by supporting the passage of the Pennsylvania DREAM Act, which would grant fair and equal access to education to youth regardless of citizenship, but also through practicing everyday compassion and acceptance toward one another — even toward those whose identities and life stories are very different from our own.
The Race Dialogue Project, Shrestha Singh, Mariya Keselman, Mansi Kothari
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) de Penn, Karen Aquino, President
The United Minorities Council, Chris Cruz, Chair
Latino Coalition, Angel Contrera, Chair
Civic House Associates Coalition (CHAC), Anna Caffry and Katie McCabe, Co-Chairs
CHAC Public Health Liaison, Pallavi Podapati
UMOJA, Victor Scotti, Planning and Facilitating Chair
Asian Pacific Student Coalition, Nicky Singh, Chair
Lambda Alliance, Corinne Rich, Chair
Penn Consortium for Undergraduate Women (PCUW), Meg Hlousek, Chair
Penn for Palestine, Humna Bhojani, President
Queer People Of Color (QPOC), Diana Estrada-Alamo and Christopher Griffin, Co-Chairs
Grupo Quisqueyano, Pedro Reyes, President
Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), Joseph Lawless, President
La Vida Magazine, Isamar Ramirez and Karla Molina, co-editors in chief
Gamma Chapter of Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc., Hermana, Sasha Lagombra
Penn Sangam, Aelita Parker
Cipactli Latino Honor Society
Student Labor Action Project (SLAP)
The Excelano Project
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