DANBURY, Conn. — Evelin Garcia, a senior at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, said she feels awful each time she learns a classmate has had to drop out of school. "They find that they can't afford it because they couldn’t get any financial assistance due to their status as an undocumented immigrant," she said.
“It’s really sad because a lot of them are so smart. They were studying to be doctors or physician’s assistants or engineers, and they have to put their education on hold,” said Garcia of Danbury, who is an undocumented immigrant. “They now work in fast-food places.”
Garcia is a volunteer with Connecticut Students for a Dream, known as C4D, a statewide youth-led organization that works for the rights of undocumented students and their families.
C4D is working to spread awareness of a campaign for undocumented immigrants to get college aid as well as obtain other rights. The group was co-founded in 2010 by Carolina Bortolleto, a Danbury resident and WestConn graduate.
Bortolleto, who is also an undocumented immigrant, spoke about the fear in the immigrant community in Danbury as a result of President Donald Trump’s policies.
“There are many people who are certain they will be deported," she said. "This past week, there has been a lot in the news about raids around the country that has definitely put people on edge.
“I would like to see immigrants live without fear and live with dignity," she said.
Part of that effort, Bortolleto said, is to make sure that undocumented immigrants are aware of their rights. To educate the community, C4D is spreading awareness is holding “Know Your Rights” workshops. Since Trump's election, C4D has held seven such workshops across Connecticut.
The C4D is also spreading awareness of its Afford To Dream Campaign to make institutional financial aid available to undocumented immigrants at state colleges and universities.
Both Bortolleto and Garcia are generating support of the Afford to Dream Campaign by collecting signatures on petitions. “Last year, we had 1,000 online signatures and 400 paper signatures. We hope to get more this year,” Bortolleto said.
“I see C4D as a way that Connecticut can stand up to the divisive rhetoric of the Trump administration and be a welcoming state," she said.