The monarch butterfly symbolizes support for undocumented students

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Poster illustration by Favianna Rodriguez’s “Migration is beautiful” project.

The monarch butterfly is a commonly used symbol taken by pro-immigration activists who strive to change people’s views on immigration.

In recent years, educators and other supporters of immigration have used the butterfly symbol by visibly placing it on their window. The usage of the symbol represents a sense of security, support and understanding for students who struggle with the everyday fear of deportation.

“I absolutely encountered students who feared deportation for themselves and their families,” said Dr. Elizabeth Holbrook, an educator with over 20 years of experience. “Anxiety due to fear and depression, due to hopelessness, are serious mental health concerns for this population, and the concerning thing is that it is reasonable for them to fear seeking help due to their immigration status.”

Holbrook said it is crucial for educational institutions to invest in creating understanding and welcoming environments for its students. A simple butterfly tagged on a window, door or desk can make a difference. It is a welcoming mat of security for those who feel uneasy or feel like their status will put them at risk.

Social activist Favianna Rodriguez, a modern artist who uses her works for political statements, is sometimes credited for popularizing the monarch butterfly as the lead symbol for pro-immigration.

“I think symbols definitely have the ability to create a culture of resistance.” said Rodriguez to Cultural Organizing, an organization that focuses on activist movements. “So for me, it was important to popularize the image of a butterfly.”

In 2012, Rodriguez held an interactive design session at a CultureStrike retreat that allowed artists and activists to showcase their projects. From here came the term ”Migration is Beautiful.” Artists were quick to mark the monarch butterfly as the symbol that would perfectly illustrate the metaphor for immigrants, DACA students and other supporters looking for acceptance in the United States.

“Butterflies can cross borders, so the butterfly is the symbol to talk about the beauty of migrants as they move from place to place,” said Rodriguez in the interview with Cultural Organizing. “Just like butterflies migrate in order to survive, people migrate in order to survive. It is not just about economics. It is also about people wanting to be unified with their families.”

Since then, Rodriguez has continued to work for CultureStrike as the executive director of the organization, which is still focusing on helping and encouraging artists to use their creativity to spark conversation surrounding controversial topics.

As for students at TAMU-CC, not many monarch butterfly tags have been spotted, however, there are other resources that can provide aid to undocumented students.

Claudia Ayala, who serves as counselor at the Counseling Center, gave insight on how the center can provide help for those who struggle with the anxieties of being undocumented.

“We offer a variety of resources,” said Ayala “… Group counseling is very common, which is a way for students to share their experiences in a safe environment, but we also provide case specific help for those who need it. We can also help with housing and food assistance.”

Ayala also mentioned that the Counseling Center is a safe zone for all students, and they will not disclose any status or information that could harm an individual or the individual’s family.

If any student wants to learn more about Rodriguez and her social activist projects, check out the website “Migration is beautiful,” or reach out to the Corpus Christi local immigration activist groups to learn more on how to help.