Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from fact.
Last week, Bruin Republicans held an event cleverly titled “Sabine Durden: An Illegal Immigrant Killed My Child,” in which guest speaker and Donald Trump affiliate Sabine Durden spoke about how an undocumented immigrant killed her child.
Instead of focusing on the drunk driving of the man who killed her child, Durden chose to hone in on the perpetrator’s immigration status and criminalize everyone of the same “illegal” status, as she said that all illegal immigrants are criminals. And as a result, the event served to marginalize the undocumented student population on campus in the face of the growing anti-immigrant rhetoric both on this campus as well as in the country.
Bruin Republicans should not be holding events that marginalize and threaten the security of a portion of our student population. It is inappropriate, it is upsetting and most importantly, it is in extremely bad taste. Instead of holding one-sided events, they should make sure their events have less offensive titles and offer a chance for those on the opposing side to safely share their experiences.
Bruin Republicans is no stranger to controversial events and seems to enjoy singling out minorities. Last year’s “Feminism is Cancer” event singled out female students and raised similar questions regarding whether the event should have been allowed. The infamous picture of Bruin Republicans board members gleefully smiling while holding signs decorated with slogans like “transgenderism is a mental disorder!” brings back memories of an attack against an already marginalized group on campus.
Though Bruin Republicans claims to stand for free speech and says that its events are in an effort to start a conversation about these topics, it doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of its actions. It is harmful for anyone, especially college students trying their best to get an education at one of the world’s best and most competitive and fast-paced schools, to be hearing this kind of hateful speech.
Durden herself said that “every illegal student takes the place of an American one,” at a school with a number of undocumented students. When speech attacks specific individuals, telling them they are less deserving of an education because of where they were born, it stops being about starting a discourse and starts being about the safety of our undocumented population.
This event marginalized and threatened the security of undocumented students before and at the door, especially considering those who attended the event were greeted by oh-so-respectful comments like “Get out of our country” and even “Deport him,” the Daily Bruin reported. Even Durden, the guest of honor, put her maturity on display when she responded, “Yawn,” after being questioned about her “lifesaver” Trump and his policies being called bigoted.
Regardless of your opinion on immigration, there is no reason to tell another student they deserve to be deported. This is incredibly insensitive and shows a massive lack of understanding on the part of Bruin Republicans, as it doesn’t seem to realize many of these students were born here and many others fled violence in their homeland. If they were deported, many of them would find themselves lost in a country in which they have little to no personal experience. Bruin Republicans, which also recently came under fire after an image surfaced of a board member counterprotesting a Black Lives Matter movement protest, fails to see the consequences of its actions, nor does it seem to care about them.
For instance, members of Bruin Republicans wasted no time calling out the insensitivity of students toward Durden, a woman who has lost her son, but they seemed to care little about the insensitivity of their own actions toward their undocumented peers.
Undocumented students already feel unsafe within our country, but they should not have to feel that way in our school. The UC system does not require students to show proof of citizenship and even offers financial aid and other resources for these students. Students have no right to discourage any of their peers when we all receive the same acceptance letter. Though many on this campus may like to believe we are living in a post-racial society, this is decidedly not the case, especially for those who are undocumented and face an incredibly high level of anxiety due to the challenges they face that their native peers do not. In addition to the pressures of succeeding academically, these students have to deal with issues related to finance, isolation, discrimination and the fear of deportation.
By inviting and organizing an event that uses an isolated incident to criminalize an entire group of people and by throwing around a slur against many of them, Bruin Republicans is not encouraging discourse. It is attacking real individuals in an emotionally manipulative and highly dangerous way.
It is true that free speech encourages conversation about controversial topics like immigration, and it is expected these types of discussions would take place so close to a presidential election. College is a place for open discussion and discourse, and students are entitled to varied viewpoints, be that for or against allowing amnesty to undocumented immigrants. However, this event was not held to start a dialogue about immigration.
UCLA students should be using their freedom of speech to promote unity and progressive thought in our institution and by extension, our country, rather than to tear down other students. Questioning any student’s place at UCLA because of their immigration status is a vile, cruel thing to do and exposes internalized racism. It is uncouth to suggest any student does not deserve to attend UCLA or that any person does not deserve to live in America.