Marquette Wire

Dreamers Group provides closed meetings to undocumented students

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Photo by Maryam Tunio/maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio/maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio

Photo by Maryam Tunio

Photo by Maryam Tunio/maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

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The Dreamers Group, a biweekly support group for undocumented students, provides a space for finding support and discussing experiences on campus.

The Center for Intercultural Engagement created the group in August 2015 and its meetings are closed to protect the students who attend. When asked, members of the group would not reveal their full names so they could not be interviewed by The Marquette Tribune.

CIE Director Eva Martinez Powless said she founded the Dreamers Group because she saw a lack of safe space for undocumented students.

“I really saw the need to provide the space for students to come once a month and to have that peer support,” Powless said. “It has also provided a lot more support for students to be able to share a lot of their concerns, but also share happy stories that are going on and some of their similar struggles.”

Maira Rodriguez, a graduate assistant for intercultural engagement, leads the group. There are five students who regularly attend the group meetings. They gathered in a different campus location every time they meet.

Rodriguez facilitates the group meetings and moderates discussions with members. She said she saw a shift in student involvement since the beginning of the school year.

“They’ve become more open and they feel like they are welcomed on campus,” Rodriguez said about undocumented students. “As they started sharing their stories, they started getting more comfortable with one another.”

Campus Minsitry’s Assistant Director Bernardo Ávila-Borunda provides additional support to students in the group. He works with them individually and provides a different approach to support.

“My role is mainly supporting spiritual issues, struggles and discernment,” Ávila-Borunda said. “That is a great part of the Jesuit spirit. As most of the immigrants in school are Latin American, faith is a very important aspect of the culture.”

Powless said the Dreamers Group name comes from the DREAM Act, which gives students who grew up in the U.S. the opportunity to work towards higher education or serve in the armed forces. She said undocumented students are sometimes referred to as “dreamers.”

Powless said she hopes the Dreamers Group continues to grow and Marquette continues to support undocumented students. She said she’s creating a second group for undocumented students and their allies next fall.

“If I had to dream, I would really want Marquette to take a proactive approach on the student success as it pertains to undocumented students,” Powless said. “If in the future, it’s in the line for the mission at Marquette, why not have a center for undocumented students?”

Rodriguez said leading the Dreamers Group is one of the highlights of her current position. She said she hopes that the group will grow in the future and students involved will continue to advocate for themselves on campus.

“I’ve learned so much from them,” she said about the Dreamers Group members. “That’s been really rewarding and it’s also been great to be an ally for them and to be a support system for them. I’ve really appreciated that.”

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