Students discuss human rights


Andrea Olan

Presidential Fellows at their first meetings on Aug. 26 at the Dallas College Mountain View Campus

Andrea Olan, Copy Editor

The Presidential Fellows Program held its first meeting on Aug. 26 at Dallas College Mountain View Campus.

The Fellows are highly academically performing students who committed this year to improving the social conditions of communities in Dallas.

This year-long fellowship will train them in areas of leadership, community development and the use of data to improve social issues. By the end of the academic year, they will have the opportunity to present their research at a state or national conference.

The program is under the direction two Mountain View Campus leaders – Kenneth Gonzalez, campus president, and Susana Perez, senior director of campus administration.

Kristina Morales, Department of Justice accredited representative of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, was the special guest of the evening. Human Rights Initiative of North Texas is an organization recognized by the Department of Justice, that serves vulnerable immigrant communities, Morales said. The group helps underserved populations in Dallas by providing free services to individuals whose income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines.

The Presidential Fellows were intrigued by the volunteer programs offered. Morales said continuing legal education programs and volunteer trainings for the lawyers are among their offerings. “These nonlegal volunteers are people and professionals who provide medical assistance, mental health workers, volunteer translation and interpretation.”

The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas is constantly looking for bilingual volunteers, since their clientele is constantly expanding to a more diverse group of people.

Morales said the organization also hosts fundraising events to spread awareness on immigrant rights. Their primary event is held annually called Rock Your Heart Out, which showcases immigrant stories through musicians, actors and artists.

In addition to immigration services, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas also advocates for health care rights, immigrant rights and racial justice, Morales said. The organization keeps track of new immigration policies being passed by Congress.

They are aware of the difficult situation of the “Remain in Mexico” program, which forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases move through the court system. The program was put in place by President Donald Trump’s administration in an attempt to keep Black and brown immigrants from seeking asylum in the U.S., Morales said.

The organization assists groups of people on the border to guide them through the U.S. legal system.

“Some of our happiest moments are when our clients are reunited with their families or when [after] waiting years to get a Green Card,” Morales said. “Looking forward, we also want to be more involved with more social justice issues, for example, [LGBTQ] rights and initiatives.”