International Office “comes out” on National Institutions Coming Out Day to support undocumented students

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The University’s International Office was one of 72 institutions that “came out” Tuesday for the first National Institutions Coming Out Day, an effort to provide safe spaces for undocumented students.

The International Office and the University Leadership Initiative (ULI) — which participates in education advocacy intiatives for youths — hosted the event, which is planned to occur annually.

Linguistics senior Diana Morales, ULI’s Dream Education Empowerment Program coordinator, said many institutions have scarce resources for undocumented students, and educators aren’t always aware of the rights accorded to these students

“With NICOD, we are able to identify which institutions are ready to take a step forward and are interested to advocate with their students at the institutional level,” Morales said. “[We want to] challenge institutional policies and make sure that our undocumented brothers and sisters are able to feel comfortable in their own campuses, as many feel unsafe anywhere else because of the political climate or the fear of one day being deported and separated from their family.”

Morales said the International Office made commitments to participate in “National Educators Coming Out Day” in November and co-host a “Know Your Rights” training session for educators, so they can better assist students.

The ULI has had a long-standing relationship with the International Office, according to Meghan Merchant, program coordinator at the International Office. Merchant said the International Office demonstrated support for undocumented students by showing a film screening of the short documentary “Living Undocumented.”

“Other ways [of supporting ULI] include maintaining the Longhorn Dreamers Project website, supporting Undocumented Longhorns Week and having a special orientation in the summer for new undocumented students to connect them with campus resources,” Merchant said.

Rhetoric and writing junior Maria Reza, United We Dream officer for ULI, said she enjoyed seeing the diversity in the documentary “Living
Undocumented.”

“Immigration is not just a Mexican issue; it’s not just an issue for Latinos. … It’s a global issue,” Reza said. “That’s something to always keep in mind — you should never assume that someone’s undocumented based on what they look like or how they speak.”

Reza said she is an advocate of ending the use of the term “illegals” in reference to undocumented immigrants. 

“Even if they don’t mean it, it’s just — words hurt, right?” Reza said. “We kind of prefer ‘undocumented. If you don’t like ‘undocumented,’ ‘unauthorized.’ If you don’t like ‘unauthorized,’ just my name is good.”