Dear editorial board,
We are writing to you to provide further context to Spectator’s 143rd editorial board’s endorsement of Patricia Granda-Malaver and her involvement with UndoCU, the Undocumented Students Initiative at Columbia University. The piece states: “We endorse Patricia Granda-Malaver, CC ’20, for CCSC Student Body President due to her history of taking a leadership role in imperative student initiatives, such as by supporting student groups like UndoCU …” Given that UndoCU is one out of four student groups mentioned with Granda-Malaver’s name, we feel that this puts an inaccurate weight on her “support” to our organization. For the sake of transparency, we want to both acknowledge and clarify that her involvement with our organization took place in 2017 and consisted of filling out a Joint Council Co-Sponsorship Committee application with the former treasurer of UndoCU per her role as interim treasurer of SOL, the Columbia University Student Organization of Latinxs. Also, we want to point out that she has not signed any of UndoCU’s petitions asking for student support, either from 2017 or our most recent one published about a month ago.
Given the history and precedent of student candidates using UndoCU for public relations and political clout during elections season, we wanted to comment on this endorsement publicly as we do not want our constituency and allies to be misled into thinking that this candidate has been doing active work for us.
We want to echo our words from 2017, during the student council campaign season: “Immigrants have been dehumanized and utilized as an instrument to amplify political campaigns for generations and we are now seeing the same behavior on this very campus. We are not just a collective source of bodies that can increase your vote count. We all have individual stories and lives engulfed with extensive hardships. And although this seems to be an apparent aspect to our lives, individuals rarely reach out to gain a perspective on it to address our concerns and necessities for security. Please ask yourself: have you ever worked with us before? Do you know what our demands are? Do you know of the progress we have made with our necessities? Are you prepared to fight for us, to put yourself on the line?”
Between April 1 and April 4, we received over six emails from individuals asking for election endorsements, including from the Columbia College Student Council party Ignite. We have had no formal relationship with most of these students and they have not contacted us via email before these requests.
We have come a long way since our conception and have progressed with our demands to the administration. As a result, we do not condone and will not advocate for the utilization of our sincere efforts for any individual’s campaign. We exhaust ourselves physically and emotionally to allocate resources to the students of this institution that are in danger and therefore oppose the politicization of our progress, including the hard work, stress, and emotional exhaustion that we have invested into guaranteeing summer housing, Counseling and Psychological Services, financial aid, etc. While we are happy to work with any individual who is elected to student council, we ask that individuals refrain from using our work to advance their own political campaigns. It is not right for the endangered bodies to have their hard work discredited, and it is dishonest to the community to develop platforms appropriating the work of others. Regardless of who is elected, the needs of the undocumented students of this campus are the same and will not change.
While we understand that currently Granda-Malaver and her vice president for policy are running uncontested, we believe that holding candidates accountable and advocating for transparency in how they represent themselves is fundamental during this elections season and we believe it is the responsibility of on-campus news publications, such as the Spectator, to act accordingly and clarify this misrepresentation. Moving forward, we expect the to-be student body president to be concerned with our demands and listen to undocumented folk instead of using us as a buzzword to further political ambitions like so many politicians are already doing in the “real world.”
Finally, we want to point out that there are indeed candidates in this year’s election that have been showing up, doing the work, listening to us, and actively collaborating with our goals and demands, for instance during last semester’s College Access for Undocumented Students’ Education clinics and this semester’s Deep in the Crowd: Being UndocuBlack in America event. For this reason, we have decided to endorse Heven Haile, CC ’21, for University senator; Jesús Guerra Ocampo, CC ‘20, for vice president for campus life; Gabriel Franco, CC ’21, for international students representative; Evilina Kurayeva, CC ’21, for student services representative; and Brooks Rubin, CC ’21, for pre-professional representative. Moreover, we want to extend an endorsement to Giorgia Fujita, SEAS ’20, for University senator, for carefully reading through our demands and committing to eliminating the international student fee for undocumented students as part of her student senator platform.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Editor’s Note: UndoCU members running for a position in CCSC or the Engineering Student Council were not involved in the writing of this letter.
UndoCU, the Undocumented Students Initiative at Columbia University, is Columbia’s first public undocumented student support group of its kind, and it remains an unrecognized, unaffiliated, and independent organization.
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