Three years ago, junior Anna Muñoz came to DePauw University as just another student in the class of 2019. Two and a half years later, she found herself giving a speech on Capitol Hill on the subject of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and her status as a DREAMer.
“Today, I am here on Capitol Hill to share my own story to lawmakers in hopes that they truly listen,” Muñoz said to open her speech.
The event was put on by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, an organization with a focus on improving how colleges and universities handle immigration issues on campus. DePauw joined this organization last month and President Mark McCoy was one of the university presidents in attendance at the event.
Muñoz told her story of how she immigrated to the United States as a two-year-old and her life in the United States. She was unable to receive her driver’s license or have a job in high school, giving her the initial reason to apply to the DACA program. As an undocumented immigrant, she was also unable to receive federal financial aid for college. Originally, her father told her she would not be able to go to college without financial aid, but Muñoz received the Lilly Endowment Scholarship which now funds her education.
President McCoy said he was surprised when they did not have Muñoz speak first, but instead had her speak after multiple university presidents and congressmen.
“I was thinking ‘oh no, I didn’t tell her she would have to follow up professionals who are trained on public speaking,” President McCoy said. “But she was phenomenal. I was so proud of her.”
The DACA program allows for recipients to leave the country for three different reasons: education, humanitarian reasons or a medical emergency. Muñoz was planning on using this opportunity to study abroad at University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand this semester. However, with President Donald Trump’s recent repeal of the DACA program, she was forced to stay at DePauw.
“It’s upsetting because it would have been a cool experience, and I did a lot of work to get into the school. But if I was in New Zealand, I would not have been able to go to Capitol Hill and give the speech, so I guess there’s a positive for everything,” Muñoz said.
President McCoy said that he met Muñoz at a DACA event on campus, and when the President's Alliance offered him the opportunity to bring a student with him, he knew it would be her.
“I knew she would do a great job,” President McCoy said. “She was doing interviews in different languages and really represented DePauw and DACA well.”
Muñoz said that she experienced almost every kind of emotion leading up to the speech. She felt excited, empowered, and prepared. But when she took the first step off the airplane in Washington D.C., she felt nothing but nerves.
“My heart was beating so fast,” Muñoz said. “President McCoy helped calm my nerves because he told me that everyone in the room was on my side. That helped a lot.”
President McCoy was the first person to contact Muñoz about speaking at the event. Muñoz said that he has been very supportive of her journey as a DACA recipient.
“I’m very grateful to have the President of my university so involved in a topic that is so important to me. After going to this event with him, I have realized how much he cares about DACA and how much he cares about his students at DePauw,” Muñoz said.
There have been a lot of people who have influenced Muñoz’s life, but none more than her parents. They both received a college education in Mexico, but left for the United States before they received their degrees. Both her parents have been forced to work multiple jobs during parts of Muñoz’s life in order to provide for Muñoz and her two younger brothers.
“They have given up so much for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for what they’ve done,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz said she was most emotional when she stepped off the podium after her speech and was met by an embrace from her parents. “That’s when I really teared up,” she said.
Her speech was live-streamed on Facebook by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and several of Muñoz’s friends gathered together to watch it.
“At first we kept joking with Anna about being famous and it was sort of a laughing matter between us,” junior Lauren Butler said. “But once she took the stage and started speaking, we all really teared up. It was so amazing.”
Muñoz wanted to make sure the speech was not about her, but about all undocumented immigrants.
“Their stories are equally important as mine, and just as worthy of your consideration,” she said.
The Supreme Court is set to review Judge William Alsup’s ruling last month that blocked President Donald Trump’s to end DACA.