Transy student says classmate targeted her for deportation
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Paola Garcia says she is afraid for her future.
"I want to be able to have a plan for my life," she said, "and be able to be confident in pursuing that and being in the country."
For Garcia, a senior psychology student at Transylvania University, there is more uncertainty now than ever. Garcia says she is a "Dreamer" under the DACA program, and she says ever since a fellow student called her out on Facebook, her life has been a nightmare.
Garcia says a classmate posted a screenshot of her Facebook profile, urging: "Everyone go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law." Garcia said she thinks the post is in reference to a line in her Facebook biography that said "Undocumented. Unapologetic. Unafraid."
Garcia says that happened over the summer, and since then she has gotten harassing messages on Facebook, saying things like "Unapologetic... Reported" (with pictures of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement logo); "Thank you for your information, I.C.E. has been notified...good luck in your trip back"; "They're coming for you"; and screenshots of someone submitting a tip form to I.C.E.
Garcia wants the classmate who she says incited all of it expelled, but says the university claims what happened does not fall under their non-discrimination policy. A university spokesperson could not talk specifics about the case but did say that administrators have looked into it and continue to do so.
"Transylvania University does not condone any type of harassment, bullying, hate speech, bigotry, racism," said Michele Gaither Sparks, Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Transylvania. "That is contrary to who we are as an institution, contrary to what we believe in as an institution, and we absolutely 100 percent do not tolerate that on our campus."
Garcia posted an emotional plea for help on YouTube over the weekend, asking folks to reach out to school administrators. Since then, Garcia says she has gotten message after message of support from the campus, city and country.
"It's little things like that," Garcia said, "and I wish I could sit here and read off all the amazing things I've been receiving."
Garcia, 21, says she came to the United States with her parents when she was two. She grew up in St. Albans, W.Va.
Yet after 19 years, Garcia said in the video she posted, America still does not feel like a home to her. That is one reason Garcia does not want her story to stop here. She wants it to spark change, so others, too, can feel welcome in their own homes.