October 15th, 2015 – Today, Define American launches its nationwide College Chapters program, giving students on every college campus across the United States the opportunity to actively join the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a demographically shifting country. According to a recent report from Pew Research Center, modern era immigrants – mostly Latinos and Asians – have accounted for 55 percent of total U.S. population growth in the past 50 years. Like American society itself, the makeup of America’s colleges is changing.
Define American and its founder, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas, have helped spark new conversations surrounding our nation’s immigration system by directly engaging with students across the country for the past four years. The launch of Define American’s College Chapters program signals the beginning of a greater focus in fostering the energy and passion America’s young people have to solve one of our country’s most persistent issues. According to a recent poll by Fusion, 91 percent of Americans aged 18-21 support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented families.
“As a college student myself a few years ago, I was passionate about studying immigration in the United States – and turned that energy into action by becoming an advocate for immigrant rights,” said Hendel Leiva, Define American’s National Campus Engagement Manager. “I know firsthand the importance of creating a platform where every college student is given the opportunity to contribute to this movement in a creative and impactful way.”
Define American’s inaugural chapter was established last year at Texas Tech University. Saba Nafees, the chapter’s founder, was born in Pakistan but raised in Fort Worth, TX. She was inspired to continue sharing her undocumented experience during a speech Vargas gave at the university.
“When I shared my status at the event publicly, to my surprise a few students in the audience stood up with tears in their eyes and exclaimed their undocumented status for the first time,” said Nafees. “Define American gives not only undocumented students – but also their allies and other students interested in these issues – a space to explore conversations around immigration and identity that are so critical to understanding where we’re at as a country, and charting a path for our shared future.”
Chapter foundations are also underway at Harvard University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Students who wish to apply can visit defineamerican.com/chapters and download a toolkit and instructions on the chapter foundation process. In addition to launching the online application portal, Define American will conduct outreach for its College Chapters program at the upcoming National College Media Conference in Austin, TX.