Penn Democrats hosted a panel on Oct. 30 to discuss the rights of undocumented students, particularly those currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The panel's speakers included Associate Director of Latin American and Latinx Studies Program Catherine Bartch, Associate Director for La Casa Latina Kareli Lizarraga, History professor Ann Farnsworth-Alvear and College freshman Ale Cabrales, who is an undocumented student protected under DACA.
Speakers tackled questions including what it means to be a DACA immigrant and how President Donald Trump’s decision to end the act, which protects nearly 790,000 young undocumented immigrants, affects how immigrants live in the United States. They also discussed the constitutionality of his decision.
Farnsworth emphasized the importance of pressuring Congress to pass legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries. As she handed out sheets with important phone numbers and tips to the audience, she encouraged the crowd to take action after the panel.
“If you want to see immigrants rights protected, you need to call,” she said. “You don’t need to be articulate.”
Ale Calabres said she was heartbroken because of how the end of DACA has affected her personally, but added that the support on campus has made her feel welcome at Penn.
“It’s been amazing to see people actually rally up,” she said, “It’s been great to walk down Locust and see people with DACA petitions.”
Days after Trump announced the end of the program in September, students protested on College Green and administrators held an informational session to support DACA students. Penn President Amy Gutmann has also been outspoken in her support of DACA, writing a letter to Trump in August urging him "in the strongest possible terms" to continue the program and later calling its end “heartbreaking.”
Panelists also introduced University resources for DACA beneficiaries — which include Penn Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic and cultural resource centers such as La Casa Latina — and discussed the legality of the DACA program.
Bartch said DACA was constitutional because Article II of the Constitution grants the federal government power to control immigration.
“Trump’s recession may be a violation of the 14th Amendment,” she said. “It’s a fear tactic, as Sonia Sotomayor called it.”
Chemistry professor Zahra Fakhraai said she attended the panel because she “deeply care[s] about these issues surrounding immigration.”
“Some of my students are undocumented, and they deserve better,” Fakhraai said.
College freshman Ana Acevedo, a member of Penn Democrats, said she was satisfied with how the event went after weeks of planning.
“We felt like student perspectives within the panel would be interesting,” she said. “They encouraged a natural conversation. Ann Farnsworth made people laugh about a serious topic which I think is important in opening the conversation to all types of people.”
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