America Lopez-Santiago’s involvement in Cabrini’s immigration coverage

By Seamus Feeley
May 6, 2024

Sign protests in advocacy for immigration rights. Photo by Marc Nozell via Creative Commons.
Sign protests in advocacy for immigration rights. Photo by Marc Nozell via Creative Commons.

Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants. Her drive to help these individuals is embodied throughout the curriculum at the college named after her.

One of the many journalists who made their mark in the Loquitur spreading awareness on the topic is America Lopez-Santiago (’21), who attended Cabrini with her sister Ahtziry (’19).  

Her byline includes stories such as her personal favorite, “Changing ‘Alien’ to ‘Undocumented’ acknowledges immigrants’ humanity.”   

What separates the stories she writes about immigration is their alignment with the story she lives, as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. DACA is an immigration policy devoted to eligible young immigrants that protects them from deportation and helps them secure a work permit. 

Road to Cabrini

Though America was born in Mexico, the United States is her home. However, when her brother asked their parents about working, they told him his options were limited because they didn’t have a Social Security number. From that day on, America saw her future as limited. “That’s when I realized there was a lot I could not do,” she said. 

Fortunately, the Obama administration created DACA in 2012, which the family applied for and received. But even with the program’s good intentions, there are downsides. DACA renewal can cost more than $600, which must be paid every two years, a process America calls “time-consuming.” The program’s continuing operation isn’t ensured either, since former President Donald Trump tried to end its existence during his presidency and was almost successful.   

The upcoming general election weighs heavily on the family’s minds. Lopez-Santiago said that even with the program’s current protections there is still the possibility “that my whole life could be ripped out from underneath me.”  

Many colleges don’t admit DACA recipients as registered citizens and because of their status are not allowed to attend. But Cabrini University accepted America as they did in years past with her sister Ahtziry, whose story deserves its own article.  

During Ahtziry’s time at Cabrini she worked six jobs to pay off her loans and despite the workload was a part of a sorority, the admissions counseling office, the center of Student Engagement and Leadership, and said she was “very involved with the Immigration Club.” 

Ahtziry Lopez-Santiago 

Ahtziry is now a Spanish immersion kindergarten teacher in Delaware. Two years ago, Ahtziry completed her DACA renewal three months in advance, but her renewal was halted due to a system error.  

“I wasn’t able to work for a month,” said an emotional Ahtziry. 

It’s work she finds essential to her stability and is deeply passionate about. Teaching was something Ahtziry always wanted to do and the wait was mentally taxing for her. To make matters worse, she said, “It was also my first year teaching.” 

“Luckily, I work for a really good district, for people who are on my side, who advocated for me.” The school district helped in any way they could until Ahtziry secured her work permit again. 


America’s work with the Loquitur

America wrote for the Loquitur, where she was introduced to Professor Jerry Zurek. Zurek encouraged her love of writing by pushing her to use her voice.  

“He showed me how much potential I had,” said America.  America wanted her articles to have an impact on the students around her. She wanted them to know that the story they were reading wasn’t about some unfortunate immigrant they didn’t personally know, who was just another victim of an unjust process, but the story of someone right in front of them. “This is my face, you see me on campus, you have classes with me.”  

In almost all her stories she weaved in social justice and advocated for immigrant rights. Her writing style and subject matter eventually landed one of her stories a 2021 Student Keystone Media Award for Diversity, “The Supreme Court ruling in favor of DACA is a step in the right direction.” When she received the award, America said it was “shocking,” and was “one of my greatest accomplishments so far.”  

Immigration and the Loquitur 

The Loquitur has frequently reported on immigration in the past.  

“Your life is worth taking risks for’: The journey of 2 Syrian refugees – Loquitur”  

The heartfelt story of two refugees leaving their war-torn country in hopes of a better future.  

“Syrian Refugee impacts student’s life – Loquitur”  

The humbling story of what it’s like to hear a harrowing past from an immigrant you personally know. 

“Overcoming my fear of the unknown: Standing with Syrian refugees – Loquitur” 

A story about the importance of welcoming and sympathizing with immigrants who were forced to leave their own country because of conflict. 

“Hope for immigrants as Berks County Detention Center closes – Loquitur”  

The story of a small victory in a larger battle, a victory against the mistreatment of immigrants seen throughout our country’s systems.   

And, “Cabrini students march with thousands for immigration reform – Loquitur”  

These are just some of the articles to mention. Amongst these stories are the works of America Lopez-Santiago; work that has been immortalized by the power of journalism. The Loquitur. The student-run news agency that will live on forever in print.   

The Loquitur turned 65 years old this semester and will not turn 66. It’s carried forward the stories of many who’ve promoted the rights of immigrants and other issues revolving around social justice, each of which deserves to be heard.  

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Seamus Feeley

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