Coming out of the shadows

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Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 12- Safe Space: “El Centro” in Squires Student Center provides a location for Tech DREAMers to meet. Photo: Billy Parvatam

by Billy Parvatam

BLACKSBURG, Va.- An organization at Virginia Tech seeks to provide a voice to the voiceless.

Tech DREAMers looks to create a community that is inclusive of undocumented immigrants at the university. In doing so, they hope to educate others on who DREAMers are, what resources are available, and ultimately advocate for immigration reform.

Ivan Vallejos, Tech DREAMers secretary, believes DREAMers need the help because of the sensitive nature in which they are brought up.

“Most undocumented immigrant children are prone to be introverted,” he said. “If you do something wrong with the law, it’s one strike and you’re out.”

One particular focus of the organization has been raising awareness on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The policy protects undocumented immigrants from deportation and according to Vallejos “allows them to obtain necessities such as a social security number and bank account.” The program faces the threat of being cut under President Trump, but the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals recently blocked his executive order according to a CNN article.

Virginia Tech spoke out against the Trump administration’s attempt to phase out the program last year. President Timothy Sands addressed the community in an open letter expressing support for the DREAMers.

Kathy Loera, a student whose mom at one point was undocumented, asserts that while the university could still do more to help, it is hard “when the community is small.” There are around 40 students currently under DACA and the overall Hispanic population only constitutes to approximately six percent of the population.

Although Tech DREAMers may be small at Virginia Tech, they are not the only one of its kind in Virginia. George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth Universities also have DREAMer-oriented organizations.

“We all communicate with each other,” Vallejos said. “We are in many ways one organization.”

In order to reach common ground with people who may not be in favor of protecting undocumented immigrants, Loera ultimately believes listening is the key to mending differences.

“The person’s heart has to be there,” she said. “They have to listen to and understand each side in order for us to grow as a country.”

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Virginia Tech senior Kathy Loera

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Tech DREAMers secretary and Virginia Tech sophomore Ivan Vallejos