Club members writing letters to immigrants detained in the Stewart Detention Center and to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. Every member had a copy of the meeting’s presentation which included letter prompts in English and Spanish and were provided with supplies. (Photo/ Antonia Bottinelli).

Undocumented Student Alliance Campaigns for Rights of Immigrants and Students

The Undocumented Student Alliance at the University of Georgia partnered with the Hispanic Student Union to host their first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic on, Tuesday, April 13. The organizations gathered on the same day that the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, who have upheld policies that exclude undocumented students from Georgia colleges, held their April meeting.

Students sat on Tate’s west lawn in socially distanced groups to write letters to detained immigrants at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, as well as to the Board of Regents, urging them to reconsider their support for policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 which bar undocumented Georgians from the University and require them to pay international tuition rates at other institutions around the state. 

“I want to spread awareness about this, these injustices that immigrants face in our state, and then also with these letters actually put our knowledge and our activism to good use, to both support immigrants in detention and advocate for the rights of immigrant students,” said USA’s public action chair, Emelynn Arroyave.

 According to Arroyave, the goal of last night’s letter-writing campaign was to voice their support of undocumented students in Georgia and to get the Board to consider repealing policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4. She says that if undocumented students were able to attend top-ranking universities in Georgia, they would have the opportunity to enter and strengthen local economies.

Emelynn Arroyave, public action chair for the Undocumented Student Association presenting information for the organizations meeting to members on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. This was the organization’s first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic and members were required to wear masks, maintain social distancing and stay within the groups they came with. (Photo/Antonia Bottinelli).

Along with writing letters to the Board of Regents, attendees were also asked to write letters to immigrants detained in Stewart Detention Center, the country’s largest immigrant detention facility. “Hopefully through this letter-writing event, you know, is a way to help those detainees feel a little more comforted,” said sophomore and the current programming chair for USA, Johana Mata. 

Last night’s meeting drew dozens of students who were able to learn about how immigration impacts not only the state, but students on UGA’s own campus. Each attendee wrote at least five cards in English and Spanish to detainees and the Board of Regents, and were sent home with a link to the meeting’s presentation that included educational material on detention centers in Georgia as well as USG policies inhibiting higher education for undocumented students. 

Johana Mata, a sophomore and the current programming chair for USA said, “hopefully with this in-person event, we could get more people to be a little more aware of the issue and just write letters to these detainees, we were able to go last year before the pandemic to Stewart Detention Center, and just seeing everything up close, really, I feel like it opened my eyes a lot.”

Antonia Bottinelli is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia with a certificate in global studies and a minor in sport management. 



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