Immigration Forum on Campus

Last week, the Rowan Democrats, along with several cultural organizations on campus, hosted an open mic night on the Student Center to embrace immigration and discuss the cultural variety it brings to America. Many students from different backgrounds attended to show support and to share their own stories.

The night began with speaker Mariana Cardenas, a Rowan Student who is involved in the Office of Volunteerism and Colleges Against Cancer.  She spoke of her journey to America, and revealed that she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. In her home country, she would not have been able to receive the treatment that she did in America. 

“If I did not immigrate to the United States when I did, I would not be alive today," Mariana explains. "My family would not have survived after receiving death threats and I would not have survived my cancer diagnosis.”

In addition to her cancer diagnosis, her family was also receiving death threats for their political affiliation back in her home country. America was a much safer option. Her story was empowering and highlighted a family who came to America for refuge and aid, and is now working to better the American society.

Maria Vasquez also spoke at this event, telling her and her siblings’ stories with immigration. She was actually born in the United States, but none of her siblings were. She mentioned that a lot of times she forgets that she isn’t an immigrant, because it is something so relevant in her life. Her two best quotes that struck me with emotion were, “Immigration is a topic that hits home, whether you’re an immigrant or not,” and “I’d rather be an immigrant than be ignorant.”

Many of the speeches were as inspiring as the previous two; however, there were people who spoke on the opposing side. In my personal opinion, this wasn’t really the platform for a political debate, and it was supposed to be more of an inspiring share-and-tell of stories. The student who came to share his opposing opinion wore a “Police Ice” shirt, a cowboy hat, and smoked a cigar he said "for effect". He continued to degrade immigrants in his two pages worth of speech he had prepared, and talked about how immigrants were a “deficit” to this country. We closed the event shortly after and noted that while we respected all opinions, we were not intending on the open mic becoming a heated political debate.

Despite this, there were plenty of speeches that moved me to tears, inspired me to reach further towards my goal of working at the UN with immigration and education, and showed me a diverse side of the Rowan students I walk by everyday on campus.