Bend the Arc:CU's founder and chair, Diane, was one of two guest speakers at the recent I-H.O.P.E. gala, held on May 2, 2018, at the I-Hotel on campus.
Sponsored by I-CAUSE (Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students), the event was held to raise money for scholarships for undocumented students attending the University of Illinois who are not eligible for the usual scholarships.
Bend the Arc:CU donated $250 to become a Bronze Level donor to the cause.
In her speech, Diane noted the many actions that Bend the Arc:CU has taken on behalf of undocumented immigrants over the past year and a half. These have included a Rosh-Hashana-themed September rally outside Congressman Rodney Davis's office, at which his office was presented with 175 petitions from around the district asking him to vote for a clean Dream Act, and a meeting with Davis in October at which a total of 300 petitions were presented to him personally.
She also described the group's December DACA forum featuring experts that included the Illinois State Treasurer, an aide to Senator Dick Durbin, a lawyer with the local chapter of the ACLU, the head of the U of I's La Casa Latina Cultural, and a professor of immigration studies. Themed to Chanukah, the forum was called “Don't Let the Lights Go Out on Dreamers.”
She also noted that in early February, Bend the Arc:CU sponsored a DACA march through downtown Champaign and an outdoor interfaith vigil in frigid temperatures in advance of what was expected that week to be a final vote in Congress on DACA, a vote that did not happen.
“But,” she told the gala, “we are most proud of our most famous action, when four of us flew to Washington on January 17 to take part in an act of civil disobedience. Over 20 advocacy groups participated, including United We Dream.
“Surrounded by Dreamers who could not sit for themselves, we sat on the floor of the Russell Senate Building, singing and chanting that we were strong, that God would build the world from love, and that we would not be moved. We and over 80 others were arrested for our efforts. If we lived in a perfect world, Congress would have brought a vote to the floor and a clean Dream Act would have passed that very day. As you know, that did not happen.
“However,” she continued, “this is a gala about hope. I hope that DACA is reinstated in 90 days, I hope that university administrators give you scholarships. I hope that we have a new Congress in November. And I hope that the next time we all meet together in a room, you are on a path to citizenship, free from the fear you feel every day. Kein y’hi ratzon (may it be so).”