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Our Space, Our Voice: Welcome from Act on a Dream

By Anshi Moreno Jimenez and Elmer Vivas Portillo

Class of 2022—when you arrive on campus, you will find students that have been advocating for immigration rights and reform since they were in high school, others that have only recently begun their activism, and some who are not open about their status. Wherever you are in this journey, we hope you’ll join us.

Discussing undocumented status is difficult. Yet, many students on campus have boldly come out and have made these conversations more common. There is widespread support for and recognition of undocumented community members among the student body. This is, in part, due to Act on a Dream’s advocacy and community building work.

Act on a Dream is a student-led, student-run organization at Harvard College focused on supporting undocumented students, DACA recipients, citizens in mixed-status families, and other immigrants. We focus on three branches: First, advocating for legislative measures; second, building a community on campus that welcomes all immigrants; and third, working with Harvard administration for undocumented student resources.

On a daily basis, Act on a Dream’s support could mean providing a space for reflection and support (such as following the 2016 election), being able to mention DACA without explaining what it means, venting about our anxieties, or going out for a fun night together. We have established a mentorship program that connects upperclassmen with first-year students, staged rallies outside Massachusetts Hall—home to the offices of the University president—and, most recently, created an open-mic Visitas event for prospective members of the Class of 2022 to meet our members and allies through conversation and performance. Our events are often co-sponsored with other student organizations, reflecting our belief that strength lies in our unity.

Our Act on a Dream family, however, includes more than just students: Harvard employees, including those with Temporary Protected Status, cook our meals and keep our houses clean and safe, even during snowstorms. They too are an integral part of the Harvard community and of our Act on a Dream family, as they provide support with our advocacy efforts.

You will surely have days when the news outside these gates will affect you, and you may find yourself unable to fully engage with your lectures or peers. As hard as this can be—especially when you are supposed to be enjoying your college experience—remember that you are not alone. The entire undocumented community and its allies are behind you. We will continue creating safe spaces to share your joy, your frustrations, and your achievements. We will move ahead together by creating solidarity from our experiences. As you navigate through the space, we encourage you to challenge ideas in the classrooms, attend panels, and participate in rallies that push Harvard into action. We will join you in these efforts.

All of us, current and future students alike, are going through these roller-coaster months together. Not enough progress has been made at the local and national levels, and undocumented students and their families continue to have low access to education, jobs, and other opportunities. We are working to dispel myths surrounding immigration in the United States by humanizing diverse experiences with borders.

There is no single story of migration, but we can still build solidarity by listening to each other and sharing resources and tools. We hope to use our voices and advocacy skills to ignite discussions and change. Our hope is that during your time at Harvard, you too will find your voice and realize that the power of your story can move you out of the shadows. This is a critical moment to mobilize, reminding everyone that the issues of migration do not end with us, but rather affect everyone. Migration is an intersectional issue.

When the Classes of 2018 and 2019 applied to Harvard, there was no way of knowing if there were other undocumented students. Harvard did not have an official webpage—like the one that exists today—to validate the existence of these students. This new website is the centralized location to find the resources the institution has allocated for undocumented students, including mental health care and legal advising.

There’s nothing more empowering than having freshmen join us each year to better this institution by reclaiming our narratives and sharing our stories when we feel comfortable doing so. Harvard can always do better, and you have the opportunity to provide your input in these changes. We are here to listen, to offer our advice and experience, and ultimately to support you in your unique journey.

No matter where you’re starting from, we will remind you that you have a place here.

Anshi Moreno Jimenez ’19 is a Social Studies concentrator in Mather House. Elmer Vivas Portillo ’20 is a Sociology concentrator in Mather House. They are advocacy co-chairs for Act on a Dream.

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