Penn to host summit for immigration rights advocacy

The summit is being led by Penn for Immigration Rights board members

· October 5, 2012, 12:40 am

Students from all over the East Coast are banding together this weekend to solidify a coalition to fight for immigration rights.

This weekend, Penn will be hosting the second annual Collegiate Alliance for Immigration Reform Summit. The summit marks a chance for students from different schools to come together and discuss advocacy for immigration rights, as well as to strengthen the newly founded coalition.

The summit is being led by Penn for Immigration Rights board members, including co-chairs Wharton junior Tania Chairez and Wharton and College senior Angel Contrera..

“The goal of this year is to form a more dynamic presence,” said Contrera, who also serves as chair of the Latino Coalition. “We want to ensure that in the end, we leave with a clear plan of what the coalition wants to achieve.”

Beginning today, students will participate in various workshops and will begin planning how to spread their message throughout the country.

Chairez, an undocumented immigrant who has been active with immigration issues over the past year, said, “A lot of it is about bouncing off ideas. The main idea for the summit is for the coalition members to work as a unit.”

“We want to create a national spur of attention,” she added.

The conference will feature a keynote speaker from National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group dedicated to immigration rights. While the keynote event will be open to the public, the rest of the conference is not.

“Our concern is that if it’s open to the public you’ll get lost in the fold and won’t get much done,” Contrera said about the decision to keep the conference private. “We want this to be a very active discussion, to make sure that when we leave on Sunday, there will be agenda items.”

Last year’s inaugural conference took place at Harvard University, and was led by a student group called Act on a Dream.

“While there is a DREAM Act movement nationally, the movement hasn’t really figured out how to organize students at top universities,” said Harvard senior Nicolas Jofre, who organized last year’s conference. “We knew students at other Ivy Leagues had been involved in DREAM Act advocacy. We also knew they wanted to learn from us about what more they could do in their positions as students.”

According to Jofre, last year’s summit was very successful, drawing about 50 attendees from various schools.

“Everyone came and put forth their best,” he said. “We were able to finally find out the level of advocacy on other campuses.”

Though PIR has planned an agenda with specific topics it wants to cover at this year’s summit, student leaders from other colleges are bringing forth their own ideas and plans.

Harvard sophomore Anahi Mendoza, director of Act on a Dream, is hoping to address the issue of scholarships.

“We want to … [work] to make sure that scholarships like the Gates Millennium and the Coca-Cola scholarship open up so that undocumented students can apply,” Mendoza said.

“I think we had a great start last year at Harvard and we want to make sure we continue to push that momentum,” Contrera added. “We’re really excited to get everyone here on campus.”

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