Fairly new to campus, the Lehigh Immigration Coalition has ambitious plans to make Lehigh a supportive campus for immigrant students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients and undocumented students.
The six students who initiated the Coalition, Vicki Jagdeo, ’21, Vanessa Singh, ’22, Adriana Perez-Flores, ’22, Daniel John, ’22, Yamelin Jaquez, ’22, and Julio Martinez-Cuin, ’21, worked hard to make the Coalition an official organization this fall.
The Coalition’s adviser, Germán Cadenas, an assistant professor of the counseling psychology program in the College of Education, is an immigrant from Venezuela.
“It’s important for Lehigh students to have a healthy dialogue about immigration, not just immigrant students, but for all students to talk about immigration and find ways to garner support,” Cadenas said.
This fall, the Coalition hopes to kick-off with a 5×10 program for students to learn what its club has to offer.
It plans to also hold information sessions and workshops about immigration policy, with the hopes of educating students and professors about immigration issues.
“One of the biggest issues is that students on campus don’t have the adequate guidance when it comes to issues relating to immigration, such as filling out financial aid forms or when tax season rolls around,” Perez-Flores said. “A lot of students who are neither international students nor U.S. citizens aren’t familiar with the process.”
Singh expressed the importance of involving professors in the entire process.
She said she believes it’s important to demonstrate how to address immigration issues in the classroom without making students feel uncomfortable.
“I am an immigrant myself,” Singh said. “I had a club similar to this in high school, and that’s one of the ways I got through high school. I had a lot of advisers that helped me out and I believe that’s something that Lehigh lacks, because not a lot of students are comfortable saying they are undocumented students or immigrants.”
The Coalition also intends to host student and alumni panels, while collaborating with other clubs and organizations to generate conversations and share experiences.
Perez-Flores said the Coalition would like non-citizen alumni to visit the campus and talk about their experiences in the professional world, because it is a different and difficult process.
He said immigrant and undocumented students at Lehigh should know what is possible and available when they graduate.
The Coalition is also working to establish an Immigration Awareness Week with the Office of Multicultural Affairs in the fall.
Jagdeo said the group wanted to bring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients and people who are interested in learning about immigration rights together .
“Talking about immigration in the 21st century is important,” Jagdeo said. “We want different voices there, people that don’t know about it and want to know about it.”
Cadenas said there are around 50 students already interested in the Coalition and believes in the potential the club has to offer when raising awareness on campus.
“I think this club will help show that Lehigh is a friendly and welcoming place, especially for immigrant students.”