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BIRC: University should do more to support immigrant communities

On April 5, 2018, the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition launched a campaign to gather support from students, faculty and community members to encourage the University to critically reflect on the impact of its scholarship and to commit to increasing its support of the immigrant communities within and outside our campus. The decision to launch this campaign was prompted by grievances from Providence community members over a central component in Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs Stephen Kinzer’s class INTL 1802W: “International Journalism”, in which students were tasked with finding a person who qualifies as a “Dreamer” and with holding them as their object of study for the duration of the semester. We believe that mistakes in the design of this course could have been avoided through a more careful and informed preparation of the course.

We agree with Professor Kinzer that there needs to be more scrutiny of the immigration system of our country today and the way in which it impacts our society, and we agree that one way to go about this is through journalism. We believe responsible journalism and scholarship should be performed with a high degree of integrity and sensitivity — especially when it directly affects the most vulnerable members of our community. We are working privately with Professor Kinzer and the students in the course to ensure that this is a productive learning experience for all. We would like to work with the broader Brown community, however, to be better informed and proactive on this issue at a truly critical point in our national history. 

Our call to action speaks to a larger need for reform. At a time when anti-immigrant sentiment is steeply on the rise and when immigrant communities are often pointed to as scapegoats for the problems of the world today, it is more important now than ever for us to get informed and involved. We have composed a list of demands that we believe will promote and deepen the necessary dialogue on immigration that we need to be having on this campus, dialogue which will work to raise our humane and intellectual comprehension of the world. In working to meet these goals, Brown would be upholding its own values on progressing toward diversity and inclusion, and would be helping to lead the way in our nation’s understanding and discourse.

Our demands are as follows:

1. Comprehensive training for faculty and student leaders on working with undocumented people

In order for Brown to be a campus that engages in responsible and ethical research regarding migration, and, as such, to be a campus that is hospitable to undocumented students and students from mixed-status backgrounds, we believe that it is paramount for our professors and student leaders to be well-informed about our country’s immigration laws and the increasingly multitudinous legal and social threats and obstacles that undocumented people face in the United States.

Understanding that there are multiple undocumented students on campus and many more who come from mixed-status families, we believe campus awareness can and must grow to be cognizant of the challenges undocumented people face, so future academic work and community building on campus are sensitive to this issue and do not work to perpetuate harm against these communities.

2. An expansion of “Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University” to explicitly consider working with undocumented students and undocumented people

While Brown has been making strides in progressing toward its established goal of becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus, we urge the institution not to leave undocumented communities behind. The current DIAP states undocumented students, among other groups, are a focus in recruiting and supporting on this campus. But we believe that for Brown to be earnest in this effort, the plans which each academic and administrative department have to create must take into consideration how to best work with and support undocumented people.


3. The hiring of more faculty with true expertise on the topic of migration and immigration

If Brown is to be a leader in understanding migration, its research and scholarship produced on this topic must be impassioned and cutting-edge, and must not be parochial. Recruiting more faculty with expertise will allow for our campus understanding to develop and grow.

4. A strong recommitment to actively recruiting and admitting undocumented students and students with Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Enforced Departure or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

College access has long been and continues to be littered with systemic obstacles and barriers for undocumented students. Recognizing this, Brown has committed to making its admissions open and equitable to these students. We ask that Brown hold itself accountable to bringing in top undocumented students from around the country for the betterment of our campus community and campus awareness.

5. Expanding Brown’s Tam Tran memorial by creating the Tam Tran Undocumented Series and providing funds to support the Tam Tran Scholarship

Tam Tran was an undocumented doctoral student at Brown who was killed in a motor accident in 2010. She was passionate about advocating for immigrant rights and immigration reform, and used filmmaking as a medium to uplift the narratives of undocumented students. In honoring her life work, BIRC helped start the Tam Tran Scholarship to provide financial assistance for undocumented students in Rhode Island seeking to attend college.

Recipients of this award have asked us why Brown students keep pestering them for interviews. We do not believe this is doing right by the legacy of Tam Tran. We ask Brown to stop this practice and to focus instead on resources and attention toward programming and scholarship that honors the enduring vision of Tam Tran.

John Lopez ’18.5,  Maria Camila Arbelaez Solano ’19, Alexis Roman ’21, Angel Mendez ’20, Kathleen Wu ’20 and Javier Juarez GS are members of the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and can be reached at,,,, and, respectively. This list of demands previously appeared in an April 5 post on the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition Facebook page and has been republished here with permission from the authors.

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