Students, faculty protest immigration reform bill


DePauw students and faculty not only oppose the plans for immigration reform laid out in Senate Bill 590 set for immigration reform, but avow to stop the possible law from coming into action. 

Last Thursday, while other students were headed to classes, more than 50 DePauw students were headed on a bus headed to the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis to protest the bill supported by Senator Mike Delph (R-District 29). 

The bill would require law enforcement agencies to verify the citizenship or immigration status of individuals upon "reasonable suspicion" that they might be an illegal immigrant, and proposes several other changes to law enforcement proceedings. 

Similar to seventy other bills across the United States that seek authorization, SB590 will restrict the use of any language other than English in public schools, libraries, and state government agencies including documents printed and spoken. Prosecution will occur for those housing and hiring any undocumented person. 

Likewise, many fear the ongoing stipulation that racial profiling of the Latino community will arise and many, undocumented or not, will suffer. 

At the event, over 100 participants rallied for legislatures to come out of the Statehouse doors bearing a "Not a Public Entrance" sign and flanked by three Indiana police officers.  

The trip from DePauw was hosted by the Committee for Latino Concerns and the Compton Center for Social Justice.

"[The bill is] encouraging intolerance because it promotes the idea of the typical American and if you don't fit into that idea, you're discriminated against," said senior Lydia Cosio, president of CLC. "If you don't know English or skin is brown, then you're discriminated against."

Excited first-time protester, junior Kiran Wadia, joined others expecting to see many people with similar concerns who wanted to voice their opinion. 

She said laws that discriminate against members of a particular racial group pave the way for governments to pass laws that further infringe on citizens' rights.

Wadia said she was motivated to protest against the bill because she personally understands what those affected go through, whether the effect is direct or indirect. Having studied the issues in political science courses, she said she knows the potential negative consequences of the bill. 

"Being confused as Middle Eastern during the September 11th attacks, I was racially profiled and this law affects everyone including myself once again," said Wadia.   

During the protest, performers charmed crowds with stories, songs about equality and reminders that all Americans being immigrants. The protesters held tight to signs that said, "We shall overcome," and "We don't run the country, but without us, the country will run."

Junior Christian Siania voiced his opinion during the protest. 

"It's great to see students participating in the democratic process. Our voices will be heard," said Siania, who stood at the protest wearing a sticker that read "Coming out of the Shadows."    

Glen Kuecker, coordinator and professor of Latin American and Caribbean studies at DePauw, marched with the crowd as a statement of solidarity, saying that the bill is subject to destruct society as a whole.   

"Can Mike Delph assure me that not one single person will be wrongly deported and what are the protections?" Kuecker said. 

Calling them comparable to the Jim Crow laws, Kuecker refers to provisions SB590 as Juan Crow laws because of blatant targeting of Latino people. He explained that he believes many have already been wrongly accused of being undocumented and deported, although restrictions have prohibited such acts against citizens. Children born in the United States by undocumented immigrants have also been targets of deportation. 

"Nobody should be in a situation where they are feeling targeted or mistreated,"  Kuecker said, adding that laws like these pose serious hardships for people when, for example, family members are deported. "The majority of students at DePauw don't have to go through the burdens that students affected by this are carrying with them." 

Kuecker said that, despite arguments to the contrary, immigration has had substantial benefits for the American economy. As the "Baby Boomers" of the 1950s start to retire, immigrants maintain a vibrant workforce despite a shrinking population. Many undocumented workers, he added, use false social security numbers so they can work, meaning taxes are still withheld from their pay.

"It's a myth that taxes aren't being paid but they do – and most undocumented are filing with the IRS.  When I pull out my Social Security, I'm going to be taking their money," says Kuecker. 

Cosio felt confident that the protest was well-organized and had a variety of people and performances.  

Marching, the crowd chanted, saying, "Up with hope, down with hate, Hoosiers don't discriminate," and "Education not deportation."