Behind Every Great Immigration Reform Movement, There is a Great Activist

By Ana Gabriela García

Carla A Mena

Carla A. Mena

Carla A. Mena, 27, is the daughter of a Peruvian Caterer and a laborer. She considers herself to be equal parts Peruvian and American. Specifically, Southern. “Who even likes unsweetened tea?” Carla asks, seriously. “Why would you even do that?” Assimilating wholly into the U.S. and giving up her Peruvian customs, as the Attorney General suggested, is as unthinkable to her as rooting against Chelsea FC in a soccer match. “I don’t want to and I am not going to.” Carla says

Carla spends her time teaching young women in transitional homes sex education. This allows her to merge her professional life with her passion for health education and her strong sense of civic duty. It also allows her to not arouse suspicion for carrying a Ziploc bag filled with condoms and Styrofoam molds of male genitalia.

In addition to her main profession, she does research at Duke University and is on the board of many organizations, such as: Wake up Wake county, ALPES (Alianza Latino Pro-Education Salúd), The Campaign for Southern Equality, and El Pueblo Inc. at Raleigh.

Since 2004, she has advocated for the rights of Latinos and Immigrants in the U.S. Not only was she part of a generation of undocumented residents that lived through various failed attempts at immigration reform, but she was also at the forefront of all three of the biggest reform movements. The 2008 Reform Immigration for America Act, The 2010 Dream Act and the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Precisely how long has she been campaigning for reform?
“For too long, obviously,” Carla says.

The Road to Becoming an Activist

Carla was introduced to the world of activism and advocacy as a result of her mother’s worst migraine attack. It happened three years after Carla and her family moved to the U.S. They had never needed a doctor before this migraine, so they had never been to one. Finding a clinic for her mother took hours of flipping through yellow pages and white pages and newspapers until they found one.

It was in this clinic where Carla and her mother met the “Líderes de Salud,” a group of women that promoted healthy habits and well-being in the Latino community. A group which her mother would later become a part of.

Carla’s eyes are the brightest thing in the room when she reminisces sitting through the group’s meetings, crowded by adults. To Florence, the woman in charge of ‘Líderes de Salud,’ Carla seemed to show much interest in health education and in advocacy. Most of all, she seemed to be perfect for their youth program, ‘El Pueblo.’

“I guess Florence saw something in me… and that’s all I needed… and I’m really thankful for that.”

This youth group honed Carla’s leadership skills. El Pueblo had its own conferences to highlight the group’s goals and how to achieve them. It also joined forces and coordinated events with other groups. With help from a health and wellness grant, El Pueblo began a “No Fuma” tobacco prevention program. Eventually, with the group’s persuasion, many restaurants became tobacco-free.

The Beginnings of Immigration Reform

Three years later, when RIFA made immigration reform an imperative goal and possible reality in 2008, Carla had already developed the skills needed to protest and advocate.

The Reform Immigration for America Act, RIFA, was the first viable proposal introduced to Congress and the community of undocumented residents in the United States. It was also the quickest to fail. For Carla, the reason was simple. “RIFA was citizens trying to tell undocumented people what to do, and not taking us into account,” She said. “And you can’t do that.”

“If you don’t know what your community looks like and how it works, then you can’t get anywhere.”

The Fight Continues

After this failure, there came the Dream Act, which proved to be an equally disappointing battle. And a very arduous one for Carla and her coalition.


Carla and coalition members during a demonstration. It alludes to senator Hagan’s promise of education for all North Carolinians

Everywhere she goes, Carla takes with her the memory of her and her coalition’s fight for the Dream Act. It is in the confidence of her voice when she speaks. It is in the pride that she expresses for her friends and her community. It is in the dedication and effort she puts in “El Pueblo” today, helping and mentoring the undocumented youth. It is in the vivid details she remembers of Hagan and her time campaigning.

“Her whole campaign was based on ‘S. Hagen for the education of all North Carolinians.’ Like I even know her damn slogan.” Carla said.

For weeks they went to Hagan’s town halls, waited to speak with her staffers, took four and a half hour drives to DC. They dressed up in graduation caps and gowns and stood silent, with white cloth tied around their mouths. She hung “Call Hagan” posters around her neck. Protestors who went to the frontlines ran the threat of being arrested for civil disobedience. Many did.

But this wasn’t enough. Carla said, “She just did not care, she did not stand for what she said she did. Her website said all over that she stood for education, and if that’s what she was standing for then I don’t know why she would leave us out.”

Carla’s most powerful attempt to get Senator Hagan’s attention, and vote, was a fast for two weeks. Three of her fellow coalition members followed the fast with a hunger strike in downtown Raliegh. Senator Hagan’s only response was to tell the group to not stop eating. To Carla, it was an offense on Hagan’s part to say that the Dream Act wasn’t worth doing a hunger strike. “Because it was our lives on the line. And she’s thinking that it’s not worth it.” Carla said.

 “She (Senator Hagan) was one of the last people that shut it down and vote ‘No.’ And I will never forget that moment.”

A Silver Lining

In 2012, these bleak moments were finally followed by one semi-successful achievement, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. It lasted 4 years and allowed over 600,000 undocumented immigrants to apply for jobs and to institutions of higher education.

Carla said that “When it was signed a lot of us said: ‘we’re finally able to breathe a little bit better.’ And we hadn’t been able to breathe in a long time.” To breathe, for Carla and many others, meant to be able to drive with a license, to not be afraid of getting sick for lack of medical insurance, to exist without the constant fear of being deported.

DACA, for Carla, brought the feeling of being validated. “We wanted to exist for a minute. At least I did.” She confesses. “I wanted to be able to just be for a second.”

DACA also brought Carla a sense of achievement, a feeling somewhat like pride. Since it was a result of the pressures that immigration activists put on Barack Obama. Carla said, “I mean Obama didn’t wake up and was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this because I’m a good person.”

Starting Again

Its repeal by President Donald Trump did not surprise Carla and her coalition. “This was not a permanent solution.” Carla said. Meaning, it was never a path to citizenship. There is in her a deep regret for what has happened. Not for the repeal, but for having let her guard down, for waiting until ’45’ (as she refers to the President) got elected to do something about DACA.

But, Carla said, “we take care of more than just ourselves. We take care of our families.” And maybe that is why she and many others had, for a few years, let their guards down.

“We have had to pick up where we left off, or where some of us hadn’t left off.”

Carla has gained much insight from her time being at the forefront of all three reforms “At this point, we’ve learned what has worked, how we need to tackle things.” Carla said. For her, things seem oddly hopeful. Immigration might not be a new story, but this time it’s different Carla said. “More people seem to be on the bandwagon.”


Carla and her Coalition advocating for the 2010 Dream Act, they will all  have to pick up where they left off.

The Reason People Listen

When Carla talks, everyone listens. Carla’s words aren’t boisterous or arrogant. Her voice is laced with dry humor and holds a meticulous patience that comes from having to endlessly narrate your experiences to panels, government officials, colleagues, friends, and people within your own community.

Tito, a fellow advocate and close friend, said that Carla and all dreamers are expected to repeat their stories, “because some people feel like we owe them that explanation.” Carla explodes in laughter after this comment, the same welcome surprise of when she saw him say it on live television overcoming her.

But that is part of educating people. Of using your voice and your story to represent countless others who are unable to tell their own. It is also part of the burden of representing your community. Within Carla’s rhetoric lie many voices.

Documented residents, white people, they have privilege in general, but they also have the privilege to surround me, Carla argues. This is especially true when it comes to the misconception of what undocumented residents look like. Many Carla’s white friends assume or have assumed that she is a citizen. Often because of who she is or where she is in her professional career.

“If I had for some reason not been around and they hadn’t been around me, then they would continue to have the misconception of what we look like.” Carla said.

“It’s not so much about how they can change me, but how I can change them.”

The Fruits of Activism

Carla is representative of the great changes an activist can bring about on both a national scale and more importantly, on a person-to-person scale. Her advocacy work awakens a sense of civic duty and responsibility outside of and within her own community.


Carla Mena holds a sign durign a rally, while a father and his daughter embrace.

An Elon student, Dreamer and Veteran approaches Carla after he sees her speak at a panel about Daca. He remembers when DACA was just a rumor, and he remembers seeing Carla’s and Tito’s efforts on Television. “I got here in 1995, and I seen all these movements, I’m 31 years old.” He tells her. “That’s why, when I heard you talk, you amazed me… because everything that I was seeing on TV, it was all you. And him (Tito) too.”

It wasn’t just amazement that Carla gave him, it was also the will to use his voice to empower others and to push for immigration reform. He told her, “Now that I heard you, I heard him and I heard others, I’m like, ‘you know what, If they are able to do that sacrifice, why do I have to pull back?”

“Me being a veteran, I think the war that these guys fought it has such a great merit. Because it takes a lot of skill, courage to come out and talk and to go through this type of movement. It’s… my salutes to you.” – Elon Student, Veteran and Dreamer

Cristina, a sophomore and undocumented student at Elon University, also praised Carla after seeing her speak about DACA, she said, “I am so glad I met you. I was seeing this stuff on TV, and I was young, I didn’t know that I was undocumented. Then to meet you and to know that you were doing that and that I was watching it on TV it’s like, damn.”

Carla identifies as many things: American, Southern, Peruvian, a woman, an undocumented citizen. By everyone around her, she is identified as a fighter, as someone who incites change.

Students Fill their Bellies at Elon’s Food Truck Frenzy

By Ana Gabriela García


Students Mackenzie Walsh, Hannah Dobrogsz and friends at today’s Food Truck Frenzy.

The Food Truck Frenzy event, sponsored by Elon Dining and the Student Union Board is back, and during this midterm week. The stressful environment on campus was assuaged by colorful food, music and fragrant smells.

The essentials to relieve stress were all present today at the Koury Lot, fried food, sugar, laughter, and friends.

The food trucks served a wide variety of foods from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to Elon students and faculty.


Student gets Indian Food at Tara

By 11:30 students had swarmed the area. Hannah Dobrogosz, a sophomore, said it was her first time coming.

“It’s really good,” Dobrogosz said, taking a bite from her Arroz Con Pollo, ACP, ordered from the Mexican Grill Foodtruck.

“I’m gonna get a second ticket.” She said.

Among the many food trucks participating in the event was “Bam Pow Chow,” Mexican Grill, Pelican’s SnoBalls, Jam Soft Serve Ice Cream, Soon Soom Pita Pocket, Tazaa and Tootie’s.

Jake West, a former tour manager in the music business turned chef, took me behind the scenes to talk about his truck, “Dusty Donuts, Mini Donuts.”

Sebastian Vallejo, a junior at Elon, had a wide grin on his face as he ate his ACP. “It’s my multiple time,” he said referring to his countless trips to the trucks, “I don’t know how many times I’ve been here.”

When asked what he loved about his ACP, which his friend was also devouring, he said, “It’s easy to make, it’s delicious. Not so filling so that’s good. So I have enough space for other food.” he laughed.


Sebastian Vallejo eagerly eats his ACP.

Students were able to buy pre-purchased tickets or buy them on-site at the event using Elon Meal Dollars, Food Dollars, Phoenix Cash or regular cash or credit card. One ticket can be purchased for $6, three for $15 and five for $20.

Lakeside dining hall was closed during lunch because of the event. However, Colonnades and retail food locations remained open.

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Burlington’s Big Issue of Economic Inequality Surfaces in Mayoral Primary

By Ana Gabriela García


A volunteer talks to a Burlington resident in front of polls.

The town of Burlington this humid afternoon was doted with “I voted” stickers and last minute candidature brochures as people got ready eliminate one of the three mayoral candidates. Which are Celo Faucette, Craig Deaton and Ian Baltutis

Each candidate had differing platforms, however the concerns of voters were mostly centered around the same thing: Burlington’s issue of economic inequality.

Priscilla Starling, an energetic woman handing who spent her afternoon handing out mayoral brochures and pens in the entrance of the polls, said: “Everybody is always worried about the economy. How do we make it better?” She then referenced the grand economic disparity between the east and west side of Burlington, which many other voters reiterated throughout the day.

According to DATA-USA, the median house-hold income in Burlington is $36,140, which is less than the median average income in the United States.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 11.37.32 PM

Information given by DATA USA

It is interesting to note that region, ethnicity and gender were the main factors for economic disparity in the city.

For instance, males earn 1.21 percent more than their female counterparts. And Asian or Asian-American residents earn more than their caucasian and black or African-American counterparts with a salary between 61,400 and 27,193. Black or African Americans earned the least of all their counterparts, earning a salary between 28,218 and 3,314.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 12.04.44 AM

Orange= White | Green=Asian |Orange=Black/African-American | Teal=Multi-racial | Purple=Unknown| Blue=Other/Native American | Mustard=American Indian|

Bryan, a longtime resident of Burlington who attended UN Chapel Hill commented that he believed one of the biggest issues was “Economic development on the east side of Burlington.” For him, a roadblock preventing the east-side from advancing economically is the lack of diverse voices and perspectives in the local government.

“It’s tough if everyone on the board lives in the same neighborhood.”

Bryan championed the current mayor Baltutis, as he “is probably the most out of character historically. I think he’s trying to bring a more inclusive voice to the community. I think he’s fairly forward thinking.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 11.48.49 PM.png

Map of Income by location in Burlington, NC.

Bobbie Mcmillan, the assistant director of nursing at Cone Health, who has lived in Burlington for 30 years, also said that the biggest issue facing the town was “Growth. We need to revitalize some areas.” When asked which ones, she referred, as many others did, to the east.

The region is one of the most important determinants of income in Burlington.

In the east side Burlington, communities with medium wages of 23,759, 29,741 and 32,865 are right next to smaller, more concentrated communities with medium wages of 82,837, and 65,203.

On the west side of Burlington, there are only two medium income brackets 49,602 to the north and 57,436 to the south.

Unlike Bryan, Bobbie believed that Facuette was the candidate that “has vision for our city. I think he has a handle for what we need in our community.”


Voters usually bring their children, young nephews or grandchildren along with them to the polling station.

The Candidates respective platforms, as explained in detail below, are varied and showcase their very different personalities and perspectives on Burlington’s needs.

Yet, all candidates share one striking similarity. They do not address the ways in which income is distributed in regards to regional, gendered and ethnic/racial differences within the city.

  • Celo Faucette is mayor pro tem, and thus already holds a place on the City council. Faucette’s main campaign promise and goal as Mayor is to revitalize east Burlington, keep governmental costs at a low and introduce a mass transit system to the Burlington area.
  • Craig Deaton is a local businessman with a passion for God, who uses Facebook as his main platform for campaigning. His platform is built on the fact that he is a conservative with great morale,  who “wants to see that we remain great.” He expresses deep worry for the greenways and bikeway projects and has a deep desire to “restore and protect out history.”
  • Ian Baltutis  is the current mayor of Burlington, a business owner, and an Elon University graduate. During his term, he encouraged civic engagement and expressed a passion for promoting leadership in young people.







“Together We Will Set the Next Horizon for Elon’s Destiny” promises Connie Book, president-elect of Elon University

By Ana Gabriela García

This morning, Elon students, faculty, staff and extended community woke up with the news that the search for the next president-elect had officially ended.

Before being named president-elect of Elon University, Connie Book distinguished herself on campus by leading the creation of the Student Professional Development, the Global Community. She also served as a presidential faculty fellow for strategic planning, which focused on the development of the Elon Commitment strategic plan and the department chair and associate dean of Elon’s School of Communication. Prior to being associate dean, she taught as a faculty member.

Fred Young, Elon’s seventh president, said before the event that he’s really excited about the new president.

“She brings exactly what we need at this school. I am excited to admire her work as I did president Lambert’s.” Young said, “It’s been a joy to watch him and admire his skill. A joy to see Elon progress and make a reality of dreams that were items on a wish list when I was here. I hope this is only the beginning.”

 “I am excited to admire her work as I did president Lambert’s. It’s been a joy to watch him and admire his skill. A joy to see Elon progress and make a reality of dreams that were items on a wish list when I was here. ”

– Fred Young

Connie broke the mold as being the first female Provost in the Citadel’s 175-year history, and as Elon’s first female president. The announcement of Connie’s induction was made this morning at 8 a.m. Despite the last minute announcement, the event had a large turn-out as senior staff and leaders in the Elon community, both former and current came early to see her speak.

During her time at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, she served as the Provost and Dean of the College, the school’s second-ranking official and was a tenured professor in the department of English.

Connie’s selection was unanimous, on both the part of the search committee and on part of the Board of Directors. Laurie Lambert, the wife of Leo Lambert, Elon’s current president, said that she’s really excited for the Elon community. “I think Connie is a great choice.”

“I think Connie is a great choice,” Lambert said.


From left to right, current president Leo Lambert, president-elect Connie Book and former president Fred Young.

Vanessa Bravo, assistant professor of communications, was especially excited to see that Connie had been selected because she will be Elon’s first female president.

According to a 2011 report by the American Council on Education, only a quarter of college presidents are female.

“She has the academic background, is a great human being and knows Elon,” Bravo said. “I’m delighted that she’s going to be the new president.”

The Chair of Elon University’s Board of Trustees, Kerrii Anderson, said she believed the search committe met the expectations of the Elon community. These were  to look for an academic leader who is student-centered, has integrity, holds a global vision, will bring new resources and create a truly global community at Elon.

On her return to Elon, Book said,

“This is an exciting time for me and my family. I had a strong sense of coming home.”

Her sixteen years living and working at Elon are fondly remembered by her and her family. That was evident as she recounted anecdotes on how Elon had helped mold her children’s childhood and their interests. For instance, her daughter, Bella Book, attended her first lecture on feminism when she was 13 years old, something which she said  influenced her daughter’s studies and future life.

Near the end of her speech, Book addressed the entire Elon community, promising that,

“Together we will set the next horizon for Elon’s destiny.”

Leo Lambert said he has faith in Book, and presented her with a carved acorn.

“I give you this with our confidence that you have everything within you to be Elon’s might oak.”

“I give you this with our confidence that you have everything within you to be Elon’s might oak.”

“Where Do We Go From Here?”

By Ana Gabriela García


At 3:30 in Alumni Gym, eager students exchanged raised eyebrows and whispers as they sat down to hear the right, honorable David Cameron, former PM of the UK, speak at the Fall 2017 Convocation.
After a year of experiencing heightened isolationist sentiment, anti-immigration reform, as well as domestic and foreign terrorism in both the UK and the US, Cameron decided to focus his discourse around the question, “Where do we go from here?”

“Yes, we face immense challenges, but it’s good to look back and see what’s been achieved across the years.”

-David  Cameron

The honorable former PM began his speech addressing the state of flux of post-war certainties, like geopolitical cooperation, free trade markets, and multi-national organizations like the UN, which have helped keep peace for more than 60 years.

With this introduction of a very complex geopolitical question, Cameron sought to derail the “populist myth” that factors such as economic stagnation and domestic terrorism are failing or have already failed our society.

He urged Elon students, staff and the extended community to not abandon the Democratic West’s ideals, nor to abandon the resulting national and international policies of the post-war period. These are the free enterprise system, multinational organizations, increased diversity and reasonable, un-extremist political decision-making.

Even the rise of technological giants, along with their technological innovations, can be attributed to our democratic values and our increased inclination towards globalization.

“All those good things didn’t happen in spite of our values, but because of them”

– David Cameron

The three things we must do to combat populist sentiments that seek to challenge the validity of our western democratic ideals are very clear to Cameron. They are to:

  1. See what lies behind the current unease causing these sentiments
  2. Win all our old post-war arguments (those used during the Cold War and to fight against the iron curtain) yet, again
  3. Use clear thinking

What we need, Cameron argues, is a “cause-correction.” Since we- as a global society- are still betting to see all the benefits of a globalized world and interconnected free trade market.

“The fact is that too many people, even in our (the US and UK) democracies, have been left behind.”

After noting how the UK had left some of its people behind, Cameron tried to level the playing field by implementing policy directed to helping impoverished citizens better their economic and social status. One of the measures he took as PM was implementing a ten dollar minimum wage.

Cameron believes that multi-national corporations are to blame for leaving some people behind. The former PM argus that companies should live by the same values as citizens do. For this reason, while hosting and chairing a G8 summit, he made sure to include tax, trade and transparency to the agenda.

There are also many cultural ways in which people have been left behind in our globalized, democratic western society. One of these is the mass migration of displaced peoples, which has caused increasing anti-immigration and anti-multi cultural sentiment.

“We do know the right answers, we just need the political power to put them into place.”

David Cameron took this time to reflect on the Charlottesville protests and the destructive, divisive, identity politics that have spread across the west. As in many times during his discourse, Cameron referred to US history, recalling how this country was founded in direct opposition to hate, and how the country is losing its stance as the “multi-ethnic, opportunity rich society” it once used to be.

A solution he proposed to this cultural issue was to restore people’s faith in borders. In doing so, people’s faith in immigration would be restored. Security and immigration are not, nor ever will be, separate from each other, he said.

“The United States is still the essential nation. The shinning city upon the hill.”

David Cameron ended his discourse in a rather uplifting way, reminding students to not give up on their leaders, on themselves, on their country or on the democratic west. After all, he said, the United States is still the “city upon a hill,” it still has immense influence in geopolitics, and will, for a very long time.

Elon Students Start Local Initiative to Support Puerto Rico

Senior Elon student Sofia Wensel (left), and Junior Kevin Vergne (right), who are at the forefront of “Students with Puerto Rico” 

By Ana Gabriela García

The new initiative “Students with Puerto Rico” will begin collecting monetary donations, as well as hygienic products, household articles, water and canned food this Wednesday, October 4 at Moseley. Their table will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 8.08.35 PM

This movement, which has gained momentum and attraction from Senior Staff like president Leo Lambert and the university paper, The Pendulum, was created only a few days ago.

President Lambert showed his support earlier today when he made a donation to “Unidos with Puerto Rico,” the Go Fund Me page that works as an umbrella to the national Fund page “Students with Puerto Rico” and the local one, “Elon with Puerto Rico.”

In response to the positive attention that the initiative has received, Kevin Vergne, a Puerto Rican junior, said

 “I’m very motivated to start being active and helping my community back home. We’re all U.S. citizens, we should be helping each other out.”

The original brainstorming for the initiative happened on Friday, when a group of students huddled together in the top floor of Moseley for an informal chat about their island’s current humanitarian crisis. There they outlined ideas and goals of how best to help assuage the damage of hurricane María.

Their motivation came from wanting to do more than collect the 1,000 plus dollars in donations that they and 75 other Universities and Colleges across the nation had promised to send to “Students with Puerto Rico.” As the distribution of food, gasoline, electricity and water in the island waned, it became clear that the best way to help was to collect necessary products that had become scarce.

The articles they are asking the extended Elon community to donate are:

• Gatorade

Elon with PR Fluyer

• Pedialyte

• Personal Care Kits: toothpaste, toothbrushes, tampons, soa

p, shampoo

• Water purification tablets

• Diapers

• Flashlights and small radios that are solar or battery operated

• Small Tents

• Sleeping Bags

• Mosquito Repellent and Bug Spray

• Canned Non-Persihable Foods

• First Aid Kits

• Baby Formula

• Gloves

• Hand Sanitizer

• Trash Bags

• Towels

Presently, the national “Students with Puerto Rico” Go Fund Me, which started with Puerto Rican students in the University of Pennsylvania, has successfully surpassed its goal of 150k with 155,489 dollars. Everyone from friends and family, to other U.S. citizens, to celebrities like Jimmy Fallon have donated money to the page.

The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico has turned somewhat violent, with increasing instances of assaults at gunpoint for diesel, gasoline and other necessary goods that have not been distributed to all the island. However, Trump’s discouraging tweets and the anxious state of the island’s residents have not dissuaded others to help, in fact it has motivated both residents and Puerto Ricans living in the mainland United States to help their island.