Freedom University students Ashley Rivas-Triana, left, Salvador Alvarado-Linares, center, and Susana Ramirez, right, have joined forces with a multi-racial coalition of students protesting Georgia s college admission policies and drafting a United New Appeal for Human Rights. 2015 Photo: Laura Emiko Soltis/Freedom University.
Photo: Laura Emiko Soltis
Photo: Laura Emiko Soltis

Georgia activists, immigrants without legal status find common cause

Salvador Alvarado-Linares wore homemade orange and black monarch butterfly wings to the sit-in at the University of Georgia. Fashioned from paint, a cardboard box and ribbon, the El Salvadorian native’s broad wings were meant to show “migration is beautiful” — Monarch butterflies fly from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico each year, a highly publicized spectacle.

For many hours last month, the 21-year-old Berkmar High School graduate refused to budge from a UGA classroom. He did it to protest state policies that bar him and other immigrants without legal status in the U.S. from attending some of the state’s top universities and paying lower in-state tuition rates to attend other Georgia colleges.

Exhilarated by his first experience with civil disobedience, Alvarado-Linares also feared he would get in trouble with the law and jeopardize the temporary deportation deferral he had received from the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Yet he was encouraged to stick it out because he wasn’t alone.

More than 90 other protesters from a dozen colleges — including U.S. citizens and people like Alvarado-Linares who were illegally brought here as children — had joined him at sit-ins at UGA, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University. All three are closed to immigrants without legal status under a policy covering state institutions that have not admitted all academically qualified applicants for the two most recent school years. Among the other protesters were Hispanics, whites and Asian-Americans as well as black students from Spelman and Morehouse colleges.

Such multi-racial coalitions are forming across the U.S., finding common cause over discrimination and low voter participation while demonstrating against anti-illegal immigration policies. For example, the Black/Brown Coalition of Arizona has called on Congress to adopt a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without papers. And last month, black and Hispanic activists brought traffic to a halt in downtown Chicago, while protesting against recent immigration enforcement raids.

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