The immigration debate is not an abstract subject for an award-winning art student – News
Some students nearing graduation may be worried about their job prospects or concerned about their living conditions after graduation. Camila Pasquel was afraid of being expelled.
“It’s a very scary thing,” Camila said. “It’s always behind my head.”
Camila, a sculpture major at Illinois State’s School of Art, immigrated with her family to the United States from Ecuador when she was 9 years old. She has not returned to her native country or seen her other relatives for 13 years.
After high school, she was covered by President Barack Obama’s administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This policy allows children brought into the country illegally to remain in the United States and grants them authorization to work for a renewable period of two years.
President Donald Trump’s administration attempted to strike down DACA in 2017. However, the policy has remained in effect while opponents and supporters of the policy wage legal battles across the country. It was against this backdrop that Camila sought to renew her DACA status, which was due to expire two weeks before it came into effect on May 11.
Earlier this semester, and at the cost of several hundred dollars, his candidacy was approved.
Despite the shadow cast by the DACA process, Camila persevered and thrived in the state of Illinois. Last month, she received the Marshall Dullaney Pitcher Award at the opening reception of the Annual Student exposure. The award is given to an outstanding undergraduate and graduate student in the School of Art.
“It was such an honor,” Camila said. “It was validation for all the hard work I put in.”
Even finding the time to work on her art in college was a challenge. Due to her immigration status, she was not eligible for financial assistance. Therefore, she relied on scholarships, help from her family and several jobs to get by.
“Literally every penny went to school,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of these scholarships.
His mentors from the BFA program, Professor Tyler Lotz and Associate Professor Andreas Fischer, were essential to his success. Camila volunteered as a studio assistant for Lotz’s wife, ceramicist Erin Furimsky, last summer and thanked the couple for helping her grow as artists and talking to her about life outside of school.
“Camila has always displayed an uncommon ambition and a fearless attitude towards creating (art),” Lotz said. “From working at the college galleries to volunteering for a few days helping my wife in her studio, Camila seems to have made the most of her group of supporters and mentors. She has a bright future and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Camila has also worked closely with Kendra Paitz, Director and Chief Curator of University Galleries. Illinois State’s premier arts venue was one of the main reasons Camila came to college in the first place. “Kendra is so invested in art and social justice, and those are so connected to my practice,” Camila said.
For the Annual Studentuniversity galleries donated a room to Camila’s clay sculpture series ‘Other’. She calls the works of the ceramic creatures, “They’re about a conversation about immigration and how I feel like everyone else.”
University Galleries displayed the homemade pillows by Camila in a separate room. They are stacked on a platform, and visitors can put on gloves and handle the works. On the cases, she knitted messages related to her journey, such as “Immigrants look like me”.
Camila’s art reflects an identity shared between her immersion in English-speaking American culture and her past in Spanish-speaking Ecuador. “I have two sides of my brain,” she said. “I can be American Camila and I can be Hispanic Camila.”
Unlike her older sister and her parents, Camila speaks English with an American accent. She quickly adapted to the United States, living in the Chicago area. For a long time, she was reluctant to speak Spanish at home or embrace her heritage. Although she did not experience bigotry, she noticed that her parents were sometimes treated badly when they went out in public.
Camila’s family shared their story at a public event called “Our Immigration Story,” held April 27 at the University Galleries. Between tears and laughter, the family of five shared stories about their struggles as immigrants and the joys of living in America.
His mother, Mariela Salazar, wanted to live in the United States since she visited the country as a teenager. “I fell in love with the United States,” she said. “This is where my dream began.”
She and her husband, Jorge Pasquel, spoke about the economic opportunities available in the United States and the diversity and generosity of the American people. “Why come to America?” George asked. “Because America is the most wonderful country in the world.”
Camila organized the event because she wanted people to see what an immigrant family looks like. She plans to continue these discussions beyond her story and with many other immigrant families.
“I want to erase the stereotype that Trump so often distorts by saying that immigrants are drug dealers, criminals and rapists. I would say that the vast majority of immigrants (including undocumented immigrants) are teachers, students, graduates, social workers, neighbors and friends of many. I therefore advocate for immigrants and do my best to behave in a way that exemplifies an exemplary citizen, in hopes of creating an accurate picture of the positive impact of immigrants in the United States.
Camila is active in the Christian ministry group Encounter and says her faith has been key to everything in her life. After graduation, she plans to pursue her artistic career full-time.
“My goal is to help the community, to help people. I want to make a difference.”
She knows that the United States has given her a career path that probably wouldn’t have been possible in Ecuador. But here is the question: will his new country allow him to pursue this opportunity here?
Kevin Bersett can be reached at [email protected]