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After Her Video About Being Bullied Went Viral, This DACA Recipient Isn't Going Anywhere


A teary-eyed Paola Garcia took to Youtube in early September to address the targeted harassment and online bullying she had been receiving from a fellow student at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, after she said her school failed to discipline him or do anything to protect her.

“I reported it to the administration but, according to them, his actions don’t violate the school’s non-discrimination policy,” Garcia said.

Garcia, a senior studying psychology at the college, is also a DREAMer—meaning she is one of the 800,000 undocumented immigrants who have temporary relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program set into place by former President Barrack Obama in 2012. This program allows DACA recipients, people who were brought to this country at a young age (like Garcia) living as undocumented immigrants, to be able to apply for things like driver’s licenses and to legally work and pay taxes. It essentially lets them legally function in society.

And, as Garcia said in her (now viral) video, her DACA recipient status is also why the other student began to harass her —  after doxxing her by posting screenshots of her Facebook profile, Garcia said Taylor Ragg, who was also attending Transylvania University at the time, encouraged members of an online group to bully her. According to Garcia, Ragg posted her name and social media information on a far-right Facebook group called “the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts” and encouraged members of the group to “report this illegal at [his] school bragging about breaking the law.”

After Ragg shared her status and posted her name, Garcia said she received comments like “Hope you enjoy your visit back to the dirt floors of your homeland, stinky ass,” saw racial slurs aimed at both her and her boyfriend and was also sent some threats involving reporting her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Garcia said she was confused as to why the university failed to take action at first. She said it was quite obvious to her that Ragg did in fact violate the nondiscrimination policy on campus.

Transylvania University's spokesperson Michele Sparks told Her Campus that "We have zero tolerance for bullying and harassment on our campus." 

Sparks also added that Transylvania is an open and inclusive campus and strongly encourages anyone facing discrimination and bullying to come forward.

When Garcia's video went viral, Sparks said the university reached out to offer her support and tried to meet with Ragg to discuss the situation. However, Ragg was unwilling to meet with them initially. Ragg is no longer enrolled at the university. Due to federal law, Sparks could not comment any further on Ragg's departure. 

When the Lexington Herald Leader reached out to Ragg for comment, he reportedly said "The Lexington Herald Leader is fake news." He did, however, provide a right-wing publication called the Narrative Times access to screenshots of emails from the University President's executive assistant requesting a meeting with him and alleged that the school had a "liberal bias." 

Garcia’s experiences with bullying on her campus comes at a time when many young people in her position remain deeply anxious about their futures. Particularly now, as the life-changing program has been on the chopping block for President Donald Trump’s administration and as a culture of intolerance and hatred toward undocumented Americans has become emboldened and more outspoken. Though this isn’t the first time she has experienced discrimination, harassment and uncertainty, Garcia said that this incident has only made her stronger.

“Being undocumented and being targeted have made me learn to be loud and unapologetic,” Garcia told Her Campus. “I want to embody now more than ever, the spirit of a DREAMer.”

Garcia said she was barely two-years-old when she left her home of Guanajuato, Mexico in 1997 to come to the United States with her family and, since then, she has seen firsthand how risky and complicated it is to live as an undocumented person. She said her father only received his U.S. residency after a 14-year-long process —that came after Homeland Security issued a deportation order due to clerical errors on their paperwork.

Still, despite witnessing all the dysfunctional and at-times cruel and emotionally draining aspects of immigration in America, Garcia said it has all convinced her that now is the time to speak up and share her story.

Garcia said she has not discussed any back-up or emergency plans with her family and remains hopeful that a solution will be reached that recognizes the humanity of DACA recipients and their families.

“I think it’s understood between all of us that this is our home,” Garcia said. “And it’ll take so much more than the end of DACA to send us anywhere.”

At the moment, Congress is working on a bill that would replace DACA and potentially open up a pathway to a more permanent residency and/or citizenship for DREAMers — although there currently isn’t an existing pathway for citizenship for most DACA recipients. But, Garcia remains optimistic about the future. As she begins her final year as an undergrad at Transylvania University, Garcia said she's looking into applying to clinical psychology doctoral programs and that her dream is to be a clinical psychologist who works with underrepresented populations.

She said she ultimately hopes to become an American citizen someday, to vote and protect vulnerable people from leaders that don’t have their best interests at heart. And, of course, she plans to continue fighting and encourages anyone facing discrimination to never keep quiet or let themselves be isolated by hate.

“My advice is to speak out and reach out,” Garcia said. “There is more love in this nation than there is hate.”

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