On Sunday, a Kentucky woman posted a tearful video asking for support after a fellow Transylvania University student put her on blast for being undocumented. Paola Garcia, who's stayed in the US because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, told the Lexington Herald Leader that her photo was shared in a "racial hate group;" as a result, she said she received a number of threats.In a six-minute-long video filled with long pauses and sniffles, Garcia shared the backlash she reportedly received after her Facebook profile picture and cover photo, which shows an image of Donald Trump and the text, "Not My President," were shared in a closed Facebook group called "the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts" in late August. A screenshot she captured shows the message Taylor Ragg allegedly wrote: "Everyone go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law."
"My parents and I have lived here since I was two years old," Garcia said, expressing the fear she has about her future. Last week, President Trump announced the end of DACA with a call for Congress to pass new legislation. "Nineteen years later, America still doesn't feel like home to me."She went on to share examples of the messages she's received since her information was shared online. "'I can't wait till your fucking cunt ass is gone,'" she read. "'You and your n-word boyfriend need to leave.' And 'Hope you enjoyed your visit. Back to them dirt floors of your homeland, stinky ass.'" Garcia also said someone sent her a picture of them filling out a tip form to Homeland Security.A search for the group "the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts" on Facebook yielded no results, but according to Splinter, the public portion of the group's page contained "a number of fascist, and anti-Semitic references."Garcia also said in her video that she reached out to Transylvania University officials about the harassment. "But according to them," she said, Ragg's "actions don't violate the school's nondiscrimination policy.""I tried my best to explain the real threat that deportation is to me and my family," she continued. "And not only that, but racists are emboldened today. And he's inciting them to harass me and report me. He's still here and I have to see his face every day."
On Wednesday afternoon, Buzzfeed News reported that Ragg was no longer enrolled at the university. When Broadly reached out to Garcia yesterday, she said that legal counsel had advised her not to offer any more statements for the foreseeable future.Michele Sparks, a spokesperson for the university, shared their statement with Broadly: "Transylvania University does not condone or tolerate hatred, bigotry, bullying or harassment in any form and will address any such behavior in a manner consistent with our policies, procedures, and values as a University. We value every member of this community on the basis of their humanity, not on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or legal status."
She added that they are "are aware of the situation that has occurred on social media and are investigating the matter very seriously. But per University policy, we cannot comment any further on any specific personnel or student issue."According to a report last year from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there was a "dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country" in the aftermath of the presidential election. Out of more than 1,000 reports filed with the SPLC in the month following the election, 315 were anti-immigrant incidents.The organization also found that 37 percent of those reports "directly referenced either President-elect Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault." Ragg, the student accused of sharing Garcia's information, has reportedly deleted his Facebook page, but prior to doing so, Raw Story grabbed and published a photo of him wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat.Heidi Beirich is the SPLC's Intelligence Project director. She tells Broadly that the harassment Garcia said she experienced is in line with the anti-immigrant bias they've documented since Trump took office.
"The Trump campaign started out by bashing Mexicans, and the policies that they've been pursuing, whether they relate to Muslims or immigrants, have been extremely harsh. We've had lots of ICE raids and now the decision to rescind DACA," Beirich says. "And this has given fuel to those people who strongly feel that immigrants don't deserve to be the United States. What this student is experiencing in Lexington is right in line with all of that. We've got some people out there who … believe that every non-white immigrant needs to get the hell out, and that's the kind of harassment she's been getting."Beirich adds that she was "quite disappointed" at Transylvania University's initial response to Garcia. "This is a classic example where administrators should stand by a student who's been harassed viciously for no reason," she says. "[Garcia] has done everything under the law; she's at the university legally, and it's just grotesque what's happening to her."