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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Speaker advocates for Hispanic students following DACA ruling

GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15 and takes place through Oct. 15. The month is intended to raise awareness and celebrate Latinx culture and history. To kick off Hispanic Heritage Month at Grand Valley State University, community and higher education activist Martha Villegas Miranda, spoke about how various communities bring cultural wealth to universities like GVSU. 

Miranda is a nationally recognized speaker who has spoken at numerous conferences at regional, national and international levels. As a daughter of immigrants, she finds it important to speak up for both the Latinx community and the first-generation student community.

One of the main talking points in Miranda’s speech was reimagining the future “that’s more inclusive” and with a greater “sense of belonging.”

To highlight Hispanic history and draw attention to the significance of Hispanic leadership, Miranda displayed prominent Hispanic figures, such as Cesar Chavez, a civil rights leader, Sonia Sotomayor and the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Using these and other prominent role models for the Latinx community, Miranda showed how various Latinx individuals paved the way for future community members.

Miranda spoke of how Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space and eventually the Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center, paved the way for Jose M. Hernandez to eventually become an astronaut himself. As a child, Hernandez worked alongside his family on farms, harvesting crops and moving town from town. Thanks to figures like Ochoa, Hernandez was able to fight for representation and secure his place as an astronaut and eventually a place in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Miranda focused on the concept of “cultural wealth,” the personal and community resources an individual has beyond their income or financial wealth. From aspirational capital, such as pursuing an education for a better future, to resistance capital, such as how legal rights have been threatened, many students learned of the cultural wealth they possess and bring to universities like GVSU.  

“We are here and ready to lead this great country,” Miranda said of Latino and Hispanic students. “You always have a voice. You must open doors for others to follow.” 

Miranda looks forward to the future of Hispanic Heritage and how the Latinx community can progress and continue to flourish. She also addressed the current issues that continue to press the Latinx community and said Miranda the recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) ruling poses a threat to thousands of immigrants.

The Obama-era program, DACA, covers roughly 500,000 undocumented immigrants and provides them work authorization along with a shield against deportation. After, a Texas judge ruled the program illegal.

“While sympathetic to the predicament of DACA recipients and their families, this Court has expressed its concerns about the legality of the program for some time,” U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen stated in his ruling online. “The solution for these deficiencies lies with the legislature, not the executive or judicial branches. Congress, for any number of reasons, has decided not to pass DACA-like legislation.” 

It’s now up to the Supreme Court of the United States, with many judges appointed by former President Donald Trump whose policies were often against immigration, to rule whether or not DACA is legal. The SCOTUS ruling could cause the shield protecting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to be removed. 

According to the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), Hispanic immigrants make up the largest undocumented immigrant population in the U.S.

“I would say immigration, economics and access to quality education are the three top issues (for Hispanic communities),” Miranda said. “DACA was something that was introduced and never went fully forward. It was for the parents of the ‘Dreamers.’”

Miranda closed her keynote address with a note of unity for the audience to take with them. 

“Te lucha es mi lucha,” Miranda said. “Your struggle is my struggle.”

Additionally, GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs has several resources and programs to support Hispanic students across campus and will host multiple events to celebrate students’ diverse heritage. 

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