Over the past couple of weeks, a migrant caravan has been traveling from Central America towards the U.S., and many have started to arrive in Tijuana at the U.S. border. We Come In Peace, a student organization on campus, developed an informational session to discuss the migrant caravan and its implications this past week.

Ana Valdez, a student at UNC Charlotte, created We Come In Peace due to the lack of resources for undocumented immigrants and conversations among students about immigration at UNC Charlotte. Valdez stated, “I wanted to create a student-led space where the campus community could come together to learn, grow, dialogue and advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees at UNC Charlotte.” One of their many goals is to be intersectional in their approaches to addressing these topics.

We Come In Peace has created various forms of programming, like ally teach-ins, which address the ways community members can support and be an ally to others, specifically undocumented immigrants and refugees in the Charlotte area.

The student organization has also been able to collaborate to create events with other student organizations, community organizations and departments.

The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has supported the student organization by hosting workshops on campus. Last semester, We Come In Peace held informational sessions on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and provided a free legal clinic and information on how to be an ally to DACA students.

We Come In Peace also held an African and Caribbean Immigrant Informational and Panel.

Migrant Caravan Informational Session

At the migrant caravan informational session, the students gave an overview of the language used to refer to the immigration topic and of the number of people being held in detention centers as well as various forms of support that can be given to the caravan.

Some of the questions that were addressed were what it meant to be an asylum seeker, immigrant, migrant or a refugee. They also addressed how these terms were distinct in their own ways when oftentimes they are used interchangeably.

To give an academic perspective on the caravan, Dr. Jurgen Buchenau, the founder of the Latin American Studies program, spoke about this topic. He gave a summary of the history of U.S. intervention in Central America. The title of his talk was Inevitable Immigration: The Legacy of U.S. Intervention in Central America.

According to Buchenau, “U.S. imperialism has produced conditions that have caused the Central American population to seek refuge from political instability, gangs, and stark differential income.”

He spoke about the various phases of intervention, such as the concept of manifest destiny all the way up to the Central American civil wars during the 1970s and ’80s.

He was also able to speak about the current environment in Central America in the 21st century, such as the “ongoing political instability, coup in Honduras and role of transnational gangs,” and how this is currently influencing the desire to obtain refuge in the United States.

How UNC Charlotte can be an ally:

When asked how UNC Charlotte can support the undocumented immigrant and refugee population at UNC Charlotte and throughout the city, Valdez said that it is important to educate oneself on the topic and to understand what it means to be an ally.

Valdez also pointed out the importance of UNC Charlotte “declaring itself a sanctuary campus, one that will refuse to cooperate with ICE and allow them on campus for the safety of our students.”

In terms of scholarships and funding, Valdez believes it is important to provide undocumented students with these resources to equip them to attend a higher institution.

Lastly, she stated that “the creation of an official university space for immigrants should be a priority.”

The Future of We Come In Peace

Valdez, a senior at UNC Charlotte, hopes that once she graduates the organization will continue to expand. She stated, “I want us to leave our footprint here and create a reliable space where students that are interested in activism can come and feel welcome and supported.”

In the future, they hope to address all different immigrant communities through diverse programs that center their specific needs.