By Jovahana Avila
What does Monarchs on the Hilltop do?
Following the 2016 Presidential Election, concerns regarding the future of the undocumented community in the U.S. gained attention by students. Even though St. Edward’s University released a statement pronouncing solidarity with undocumented students, it was not enough for Joseph Ramirez, President of Monarchs on the Hilltop and DACA recipient, who stated in an article for Hilltop Views, “One of the biggest reasons we’re having an organization for undocumented students is for the purposes of applying pressure on the administration, applying that pressure on President Martin.”
In an effort to create a space for those on campus who are undocumented, Monarchs on the Hilltop was created. The organization’s goal is to develop the next generation of socially conscious leaders that advocate for immigrant rights. Additionally, the organization serves as a resource and safe space for undocumented students on campus.
There are three tiers of involvement in the organization, which include those who attend, volunteer, and/or coordinate. Monarchs on the Hilltop actively works to offer students the opportunity to make an impact on their community in addition to encouraging civic engagement. According to Ramirez, “it is a fundamental part of this work to build a community within a traditionally isolated group due to the nature of their identity, and then empowering them to use their voice for the better.”
The organization approaches engagement through advocacy and assisting the local immigrant community. Members are passionate and vocal about their allyship with the undocumented community on and off campus. Which lead members to serving Since LULAC are a national organization, the chapters have a structured way of organizing their membership.
What do you get out of participating in Monarchs on the Hilltop?
Monarchs on the Hilltop has influenced and empowered students seek to bring justice for DACA and to those who are undocumented. According to Damian-Martinez, “we are striving to become that bridge for undocumented students between their status and opportunities as well as a space for allies to learn about how to better advocate for the undocumented community.”
In response to President Trump’s announcement that he would be removing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Monarchs on the Hilltop hosted the “St. Edward’s DACA Solidarity Action.” The event drew support from approximately 120 students, faculty, and staff. The event included musical performances followed by an open-mic opportunity where attendees had the chance to speak to the audience. Many used the platform to raise awareness to the challenges undocumented individuals and DREAMers face and urge individuals to get involved through civic participation.
The enactment of Senate Bill 4, otherwise known as the “Anti-Sanctuary Cities” bill, raised safety and privacy concerns for undocumented students on campus. As a response, Monarchs on the Hilltop hosted a Q&A with Associate Vice President of Campus Safety, Scott Burnotes, during their monthly meeting to address concerns with the undocumented community at St. Edward’s.
Monarchs on the Hilltop is largely inspired by the works of early DREAMers such as Erika Andiola, who is the co-founder of DREAM Action Coalition and this year’s Common Theme speaker. Her visit to St. Edward’s gave Monarchs on the Hilltop a lot of momentum to gain support from students, faculty, and staff. “Our organization is striving to build community within the immigrant and allies community,” Ramirez says. “We are doing so by creating an open space where individuals can share with others who are also experiencing the same challenges.” Since the organization is new to the Hilltop, students can expect to make meaningful decisions that would help craft the organization for future members.
What does Monarchs on the Hilltop contribute to the St. Edward’s community?
St. Edward’s University’s President George Martin, along with over 100 higher education leaders, signed a statement to support the continued education of students from diverse backgrounds, including undocumented students. Monarchs on the Hilltop offers this space for students who seek to develop as socially conscious leaders as well as advocate for the rights of immigrants.
Students can be as involved as they see fit. Students can apply for leadership position where they help coordinate events and execute an event. There are volunteer opportunities for students for larger events/activities such as “Texas Here to Stay” immigration clinics. As a member or attendee, you can gain valuable information and/or services from events/activities that would otherwise be difficult to come across.
Meetings are informal, conversational, and bilingual. Meetings provide a tight-knit community, where students can feel free to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know fellow members.
“It’s been humbling to create a space where undocumented students to feel empowered amidst the harsh political climate, Josue Damian-Martinez, Monarchs on the Hilltop officer, says. “They [undocumented students] are capable of so much more and this organization helps invest in their talents and leadership, which should be valued regardless of social security number.”
How can students get involved?