Common Theme Speaker shares personal story as DACA recipient

The common theme speaker this year, Erika Andiola, is “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic.”

Andiola identified herself as such while speaking at the Recreation and Convocation Center on Oct. 5, the day all renewals were due for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

As the political director for Our Revolution, former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and a DACA recipient, Andiola is a prominent activist in the immigrants-rights movement. The common read, “Detained and Deported” by Margaret Regan addresses the stories of those in the undocumented community that she came across as a reporter.

In year’s past, the university has hosted the author of the common read, like in 2015 when Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy,” spoke. Junior Bianca Esquivel said it was smart that Andiola was the speaker rather than Reagan.

“I think a lot of people here don’t really know what it’s like to be undocumented, Esquivel said. “I’m not undocumented, but I am from a mixed status family so I felt really moved.”

Emphasizing the importance of undocumented people telling their own story, Andiola shared how her journey began when she moved from Mexico to the U.S. at age 11.

Andiola’s mother decided to leave after becoming a victim of domestic violence, and the two took refuge in Arizona.

During Andiola’s college years, Arizona passed Proposition 300. The law called on college students to prove they are legal residents in order to receive state financial aid, and motivated Andiola and fellow undocumented peers to interact and become an unofficial student organization.

The group held meetings in a basement to vent and strategize for how to push forth for immigrant rights. Many attended “coming out of the shadows” rallies, in which they openly said that they are undocumented.

Years later, Andiola continues to protest. In July, following a threat Attorney General Ken Paxton made to sue the federal government for continuing DACA, she was among 15 people arrested for obstructing a highway or other passageway while protesting. Gathering near the Texas State Capitol, protesters also condemned S.B 4, the state’s “sanctuary cities” bill.  

“Don’t let anybody tell you that now is the time to resist,” Andiola said. “It has always been the time to resist for a lot of people in this nation.”

The Associated Press reported that an estimated 23 percent of people eligible for DACA had yet to submit their renewals hours before the Oct. 5 deadline.

Recalling when she obtained DACA status and her first legal job, Andiola said she made dinner plans with her mom to celebrate. Shortly after, Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to her door looking for her mom.

“I sat on the couch crying for 30 minutes, an hour, I don’t even remember,” Andiola said. She then made a YouTube video explaining her mom’s situation and urged viewers to call ICE.

“She was on a bus to Mexico, and I don’t know what you did, but she’s going back to you,” a representative from the Mexican Consulate told her the next day. Her mother is required to have regular check ins with ICE, eliciting concern from Andiola’s mother following the election of President Trump.

Professor Alex Baron described that same time period as when an immigration common theme began to be considered, mentioning a student prayer Alumna Rosemond Crown held on the seal the day after the election.

Baron said that since then, she’s become more aware of undocumented students at St. Edward’s.

“I’ve learned that many of these people have been told to keep their stories secret and to not reveal their status to anyone,” Baron said. “I’ve also seen how many of these people…are defying being told to not tell their story. And they are telling their stories to advocate for their communities.”

On Sunday, Trump sent demands to Congress for any legislation that addresses the status of DACA recipients, including a border wall and an immigration system with a focus on merit rather than family connections. However, Andiola advocated for the Dream Act and expressed hope that the bill- authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- South Carolina, and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois- would pass.

“I think we’ve built enough power in the Dreamer movement and enough support from the American people that we do have the power to pass something like Dream,” Andiola said. “Not only for that bill, but for that bill to be clean. Meaning that there’s no attachments to it and that it’s not used as a bargaining chip to get more law enforcement on us.”