“Hoping and praying for the best, but planning for the worst.”
That’s what Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations, is doing in the days before Donald Trump is inaugurated.
Aguirre and Jose Chiquito, a first-year, were invited to speak at a press conference in South Bend with the Community Coalition for Immigration Reform and St. Joe Valley Jobs with Justice. On Jan. 14, Chiquito and Aguirre spoke in support of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump plans on repealing.
“It was an honor to be able to speak at a gathering that was part of a national day of advocacy and solidarity on behalf of immigrants and refugees,” Aguirre said.
In his presentation at the conference, Aguirre pointed out the things that Goshen College has done in support of undocumented students, like President Brenneman signing a letter in support of DACA or GC’s protection of students’ privacy by refusing to release personal records and information without a legal search warrant or subpoena.
“We’ve done this, and more, because, as President Brenneman has said, just as we can’t imagine Jesus withholding food, drink or clothing from an immigrant or refugee, we can’t imagine that Jesus would withhold a decent education from those who might benefit from it,” Aguirre said. “We know that to whom much is given, much is expected.”
He estimates that 150 people were in attendance, which far surpassed the 10 to 15 people that he was expecting to be at this “small gathering.”
“I was amazed that so many people would be there,” he said, “that they gave up part of their Saturday morning because they care about immigrants and refugees.”
He hopes that the people in attendance walked away with “a better appreciation for the many contributions of foreign-born immigrants, and especially Latinos.”
Ally Medellin and Janeth Vela, both seniors, also attended the event. For Vela and Medellin, the amount of people in the room provided a sense of hope.
“I was amazed at how many people cared and felt called to attend this meeting,” Medellin said. “To me, that was what gave me hope to face the future. It was really helpful to see all of the support that people were willing to offer.”
Vela felt the acceptance of the community through the people in attendance.
“There were so many people there of diverse backgrounds, and many of them were white,” she said. “It just brings hope that there are people fighting for us, and they won’t give up. It was also empowering because I realized there were many allies within the community I had no idea about.”
For Medellin, it was important to note that “it is okay to feel like nothing will be okay,” as long as people are willing to do something about that. She also emphasized the idea of strength in numbers.
“People are scared, and people are not okay,” Medellin said. “It helps to see people coming together and not remaining silent.”
Medellin also urges people to get involved, to do more than talk about issues, and Vela notes that while people are working hard now, there is still more work to be done.
“I want to see people coming through on what they said they would be willing to do for people in need in the community,” Medellin said. “I want the words that were said to not just be words. This was a call to action.”
In the end, Medellin and Vela stressed the importance of the community working together to support people, Latinos especially, in this time of need.
“What makes the community of Goshen and surrounding areas unique,” Vela said, “is standing up for each other and supporting each other’s fights.”
Community members are invited to join a prayer gathering outside the Elkhart County Courthouse downtown at noon on Friday, Jan. 20 – exactly the time Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our 45th president. Leaders will offer prayers for our nation’s leaders and celebrate such positive values as tolerance, diversity, equality and unity.
This event is being organized by Elkhart County HOPE (Helping Our People Everywhere), a collaborative network of businesses, churches, educators, nonprofit organizations and individuals committed to helping immigrants and refugees who may be adversely affected by changes in federal immigration laws and policies in 2017. For more information, contact Richard R. Aguirre at email@example.com.