End of Winter Quarter event gets political : Students explore deportation in final project

Misinformation is rampant when it comes to deportation. Words are thrown around, often incorrectly, by people who have never been affected by it. Alien, illegal alien, legal alien, asylum, amnesty, naturalized — what’s the difference?

Students in Elena Esquibel’s Communication for Social Change class explored this topic in their final project of the 2017 winter quarter.

During the last week of classes, the students set up demonstrations and displays, highlighting things like the personal stories of children who have endured childhoods in detention centers. Immigrants face troubles many people are unaware of: citizenship applications that are only available in English, and judges have a minimum number of people they have to deport each day. Students presenting their projects also parodied citizenship tests that many observers at the event couldn’t pass. Another display was an arrangement of definitions and vocabulary words in columns for viewers to attempt to correctly match up.

One display, made by Wendy Wu, who is in her second year at SCC, is particularly poignant: it depicts the photos of children locked in detention centers, with their letters to Santa Claus. One 6-year-old girl, Beatrice, who had been in a detention center for 15 months, wrote,

“Dear Santa,
For this Christmas, I want ‘Frozen,’ headphones, shoes, an iPad, candy, a skateboard, and to leave here with my mom. I am 6 years old.”
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Bridget Owen, a student in the communications class, said in reference to Washington’s role in deportation, “I didn’t know anything about it.”

As was mentioned in several displays made by the students, one of the nation’s largest detention centers is in Washington: the Northwest Detention Center, which is a private immigration prison operated by the GEO Group.

Immigration detention centers in the U.S., like the Northwest Detention Center, make $5.2 billion annually.

In these centers, children are often detained, separated from their fathers to be kept with their mothers; the system is sexist, Kathrine Gozik, a student who participated in the event said.

Some displays listed stereotypes. One was a collection of what students thought about when they heard “deportation.” Visitors, and students in the Communications class, wrote their answers. They varied from “life quality” to “Trump” to “my dad/kids” to “Am I going to be deported?”

At some of the displays, visitors were put in the place of a person facing deportation — at one, a student garbed in judge attire and equipped with a gavel, Thomas Wicker, assigned real-life immigrant identities to the students. One immigrant he utilized as an example was Damien Martínez. He was ordered to defend his case by a judge.

One problem: Martínez is a 4-month-old baby.


The communication students arranged terms alongside their definitions so that students could learn the differences between them.

Naturalization – The process of conferring citizenship upon a person after his/her birth.

Deportation – Formally removing an alien from a country for violating the immigration laws.

Legalized Alien – A noncitizen who is legally permitted to remain in a country. This is a very broad category which includes tourists, guest workers, legal permanent residents and student visa resident aliens.

Amnesty – A pardon, or legal forgiveness, granted for an offense such as entering a country illegally.

Alien – Any person who is not a U.S. citizen.

Stipulated Removal – Occurs when a non-citizen who is facing removal proceedings and is scheduled for a hearing with an immigrant judge signs a document stating that he/she is waiving their right for the trial, and is prepared to be removed from the U.S.

Cancellation of Removal – Done at the discretion of an immigration judge. A cancellation of removal changes an alien’s removal status from “deportable” to “lawfully admitted for permanent residence.”

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – The legislative basis for granting safe haven in the U.S.. TPS is granted for six to eighteen months initially and can be extended. TPS clients are granted work permits and are exempted from removal proceedings.

Illegal Alien – A foreigner who has either entered a country illegally (e.g. without inspection or proper documents) or who has violated the terms of legal admission to the country (e.g. by overstaying the duration of a tourist or student visa.)

Expedited Removal – The removal of certain inadmissible aliens from the U.S. without referring them to an immigration judge.

Voluntary Departure – Departure of an alien from U.S. without order of removal. May or may not precede a hearing in front of immigration judge; does not bar the alien from seeking entry.

Asylum – The protection that countries grant to refugees.

-Nellie Ferguson