Zue Lopez Diaz/Contributing Writer
On Nov. 17, the Graham Center lawns was home to two groups of students fighting to have their voices heard: one that was against president-elect Donald Trump and one that was for him.
As part of a planned protest initially organized by University alumnus Tyler Allen, some students called for FIU to “unite together” and become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, many of which are currently studying at the University.
“As an undocumented immigrant that has found sanctuary in the U.S. since President Obama established the DACA program, I’ve been afraid of Trump taking away my right to work legally and drive,” said Daniel Leon, a junior biology major attending the protest.
As a first-time protester, Leon says he felt empowered by the show of support for the undocumented community.
What was meant to be a compact protest by University students, attracted the attention of news outlets like CNN, local police and even Trump supporters.
Javier Ortiz, another alumnus who is a Trump supporter, held a sign with the words “the silent majority stands with Trump,” a response to the large organized protest by the students asking for President Rosenberg to make the campus a sanctuary.
“I’m here because I believe the silent majority has spoken through voting,” Ortiz said. “When it comes to actually expressing themselves vocally, people don’t want to deal with individuals that call others ‘racist’ for no reason. It’s that type of ignorance that pushes me to see more and more why I voted for Trump.”
In regards to immigration, Ortiz used an example to explain why he supported Trump’s policies.
“When [Trump] spoke to the Ford Motor Company, of which most of the factories are being placed in Mexico, he said that he was going to put a 35 percent tariff, a tax, for every vehicle that came in from Mexico,” he said.
Ortiz said that this scenario would ultimately open more job opportunities in the United States and that this was the change he wanted to see.
The University police also came to the protest, mainly as a precaution.
“Anytime there’s a protest, we’re always out here, just in case,” Darel Ponce Fernandez, a University officer said. “We’re here to keep the peace.”
The main protest was organized to provide a safe way for people to voice their frustration and cope, according to Camila Cassio, a junior public relations major.
“It was peaceful. It was a healthy way of coping,” said Cassio. “We must protect each other from hate and bigotry. If we have each other and fight to promote peace and love, no one can undermine us.”
Cassio said it’s important to continue to fight and use your voice.
“I will not stay silent. I will fight until my vocal cords explode, I have a voice for a reason and ‘Stronger Together’ isn’t just a campaign, it’s a way of life,” said Cassio. “We are a nation of immigrants, so don’t tell me that my friends and loved ones are illegal because this land was never yours.”
She was not the only one who felt this way. Geeticka Chauhan, a senior computer science major and international student from India, came to the University three years ago, after being offered the Presidential Scholarship, an FIU freshman merit scholarship that covers 100 percent of tuition fees.
He said he went to the protest because his core values conflict with Trump.
“All my life my parents told me to work hard; be good, and good will happen to you,” Chauhan said. “That’s what my parents taught me. And then, there goes Donald Trump.”
While Chauhan isn’t undocumented, he supports having a sanctuary for students who are.
“I think it is very harsh to judge someone based on their undocumented status. We may not know what their situation was back home. And it is the duty of every country to provide a safe haven for people who had to leave their country,” Chauhan said.
Chauhan also said that many international students are scared of what is happening.
“They are second-guessing their decision to come here to the U.S.,” said Chauhan. “We came here for opportunity, for equality and when people tell us to go back to our country, it is not only appalling, it is like putting salt to our wounds.”
He said many underestimated how hard it is to leave your country and the effect the election had on many individuals.
Mark Rosenberg, the University president, said he was glad that the students of FIU are not apathetic and that they care about things.
“I believe it was a peaceful demonstration, I think that’s very important,” Rosenberg said. “I’m encouraged whenever our students want to speak publicly about their political concerns and I’m not surprised that there are concerns.”
In response to the protest’s request to make FIU a sanctuary campus, Rosenberg said the University has already taken measures, consistent with Florida law, to make sure undocumented students are offered an education.
“We have to see what the developments are and it’s too early to predict where things are really going to go,” Rosenberg said. “But we were on top of this issue from the beginning and we believe deeply in the importance of our undocumented students getting an education, so we’ll have to wait and see.”