This year universities have been at the center of the immigration debate. Many, such as New York University, Columbia, Wesleyan and schools in Miami, have declared themselves to be 'sanctuary campuses,’ pledging to protect their undocumented students however possible.
At graduation ceremonies held this month throughout the country, caps express messages of support for immigrants and even make direct references to measures taken by the Trump administration. Students on many social networks students have shared pictures of their caps using the #latinxgradcaps hashtag.
Adriana, who graduated with a master's degree in social work from The University of Southern California, wore a cap that said: "Job-stealing immigrant."
She published a photo of the cap on Instagram with a text that described her as: “Just another job-stealing, hard-working, educated, proud, humble, chingona immigrant.” The post went viral. And although she has received many notes of support and "yes you can" messages, others have virtually assaulted her, writing "I hope Trump deports you."
"In the Latinx community, I have seen the decoration of caps evolve towards a way of honoring your roots, representing your heritage, speaking to the immigrants' struggle with which many of us connect and also as a way of linking ourselves to the great Latinx community that is trying to succeed in institutions that were not created with us in mind," said
Theresa Michelle Flores, a daughter of Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants, who works at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since August of last year she has been
selling custom stickers for caps.
Traditionally graduations involve throwing caps in the air and plenty of celebration. But the phenomenon of patterned slogans and decorations is a recent trend.
Flores said she started her own line of customized messages because those available online tended to be pricey and lacking “cultural depth.”
“While I’m open to working with anyone who wants a print, my roots are with communities that have historically been underrepresented and underserved. I firmly believe that our graduates deserve to be commended for their struggles … I wanted to help them find a way to do that,” she said.
"My dreams don’t have borders,” says Tania’s cap.
Instagram she wrote that she was still in diapers when her mother made the "difficult decision" to leave her five children in Mexico to pursue the American dream. "Mom could no longer afford to feed her hungry babies. So she left everything she loved with only few monies in her pocket, a heavy heart and a soul full of hope," she wrote.
The United States, she added, presented other challenges for her mother, such as scarce work opportunities and a language barrier. But a year and a few months later she was able to reunite with her children. "She taught me perseverance before I could even spell it. Mi madre truly crossed the border so I could cross the stage," she added.
After she published her history, Tania received numerous attacks on the Internet, to which she responded: "It's sad that I have to come forward to defend myself against these internet bullies. But I will do so gracefully the way my mother taught me. For the record, I am a law abiding US Citizen, and so are my parents. We paid the price. As a sign of gratitude, we are making something of ourselves to contribute to the great country that we now call home.”
Mariely, from California State University, wrote on her cap in Spanish that she is the "daughter of immigrants." On Instagram she thanked her parents for giving her the opportunities they "only dreamed of."
"Immigrants get the job done,” says one student, graduating from a social work program.
Mariana Gonzalez, who describes herself as a proud Chicana, wrote on instagram that everything she achieved was thanks to her parents. Her cap read: "They migrated so I graduated.”
At California State University in Sacramento she was recognized for her contribution in creating an inclusive environment and "embodying the goals of diversity and social justice."
Beatriz, in Chicago, used for her cap to show a phrase by activist and civil rights defender Cesar Chavez: "Once social change begins it can not be reversed. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore."
Kenia Peregrino shared a picture of her sister's cap. A Latina and the first in her family to graduate from college, it said “dreams without borders."
María Belén Alcívar-Zúñiga, graduating with a doctoral degree at an Iowa university, put three butterflies with the text: "migration is beautiful.”
"There are not enough words of gratitude so say to my mamá today....I'm so thankful for all she's done; For all her sacrifices beginning with our migration out of Ecuador,” she wrote. "This is for you, mamita linda. For your sacrifices emigrating to this country and for all that you’ve done for us, I love you with all my soul.”
“Onwards!” she added." I can’t wait to steal someone's job after I finish this PhD," she concluded with a winking emoji.
Civil engineer Rosa Orellana wrote on the cap she wore at her graduation from California State University, Northridge, the phrase: "they migrated, so I graduated."
On her Instagram account she thanked her parents who came to the United States in search of a better life. "They worked very hard to raise my sister and me so that we would be strong independent women. They have always been my greatest support."
Azucena, wrote on her cap: "Mexico does send its best."
On Instagram she commented: "Today I graduated with a degree in psychology ... This achievement is for all Mexicans, immigrants. ‘They wanted to bury us but forgot that we are seeds' (Mexican proverb)🌹🌺❤️'
Clara Orta shared an image of her cap that says: "rooted and resilient, without papers, without fear." A journalism graduate, she also works with the immigrant community in Washington, D.C. On her Instagram account she quoted the writer Junot Díaz: "Only radical hope can imagine the existence of people like us."
Skevi Kambitis wrote on her graduation cap at Virginia Commonwealth University: "Proud daughter of immigrants."
On her Instagram account she said that she dedicated her degree to all the triple espresso coffees that she drank, to the late nights and the essays. "As the first generation of graduates, these diplomas are for my family," she said.
Lesly Pineda-Manzano graduated from Radford University with a cap that read: "My parents crossed the border so I could walk this stage."
Marisol graduated with a cap that read: "Undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic." On her Instagram account she said: "There's nothing pretty about being undocumented. But this is for all the sacrifices my parents have made. For all my friends and mentors who've supported me and guided me through this journey."
Stephanie E. Lorenzo graduated with a cap that says, "Make America respect immigrants." The 20-year-old is the first in her family to graduate from college.