When Donald Trump took the 2016 presidential election, then Seattle University Student Government president Carlos Rodriguez came out very publicly about his undocumented immigrant status.
That was the hardest school quarter of his life, he said, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.
Rodriguez said since then he’s dealt with racial attacks, mostly through social media or in the comment sections of articles he’s written on the topic of immigration and policy at the request of various academic and news outlets.
But then the Seattle U student found a drawing of a swastika that had been slipped under the door of his student housing unit in Campion Hall.
“I obviously take these things seriously,” Rodriguez said. “I’m a resident assistant, so I have to take this serious when it happens to anyone. For me, I feel like I’ve become kind of numb to it.”
Three drawings of swastikas were found on whiteboards outside the rooms of students living in Seattle U’s Bellarmine Hall during the first two weeks in October 2016. These hate crimes coincided with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur.
“Apparently it’s been happening more often,” Rodriguez said of racially motivate harassment on campus. “More often that last year.”
Natasha Martin, Seattle University’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president for institutional inclusion, announced in a February open letter to the campus community the formation of a Bias Response and Prevention Working Group to develop a draft bias response protocol.
“As the university’s strategic diversity leader, I unequivocally repudiate any acts of hate or bigotry, and attacks against, discrimination against and targeting of students, faculty or staff based on their individual or group identity,” Martin wrote in the February letter. “Such acts are antithetical to our values.”
The Capitol Hill Times is still awaiting a response from Craig Birklid, Seattle U’s director of public safety, and will update this story when more information is available.
“For me, I’m thinking this is more of a targeted incident,” Rodriguez said, “because it was slipped under my door.”
Rodriguez resigned as student president at the end of January, but has stayed busy since then. A high school counselor and social worker recently asked him to help undocumented students find higher-education resources at Seattle U and the University of Washington.
“I think that for me, that’s the work that I wanted to do,” he said, “make more of an impact on individual lives — people like me.”
He was invited to speak to high schoolers interested in pursuing higher education at the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project (LEAP) conference in February, after organizers saw his story.
Rodriguez said he isn’t looking for attention, and is as fearful as any undocumented immigrant.
“There’s like so many steps I’ve taken to ensure my safety,” he said. Rodriguez keeps spare keys friends have given him, in case he needs to lay low. “They’re pretty much safe houses, to be honest about it. I have grab-and-go bags.”
The public affairs major had thought about attending grad school, but said he’s taking a year off.
“So many things happened to me last quarter that just stressed me out, and I need to take a break,” Rodriguez said.
The Seattle U student is currently working for the King County Prosecutor’s Office as an administrative intern focused on juvenile justice at the King County Youth Services Center.
A nationwide Day Without Immigrants protest and strike is planned for May 1. Rodriguez said he’s avoided several protest events recently out of fear. Daniel Ramirez Medina had been under the same Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status Rodriguez has, and yet Medina was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and detained for more than a month before a judge ordered his release in late March.
“I think about it all the time,” Rodriguez said of the potential for him to be arrested, “because so many things are changing around immigration policy and enforcement.”