Monday, April 15, 2024

Latino students at UGA experience unfriendliness following the police’s announcement that the person linked to Laken Riley’s passing may not have proper immigration documents

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Alexa Doblado doesn’t feel safe at the University of Georgia ever since Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, was found dead on campus. Riley was killed while jogging, and her body was discovered near a lake. After Riley’s death, Doblado, like many others, felt uneasy walking alone.

The situation worsened when news spread that the suspect in Riley’s killing was an undocumented Venezuelan migrant. This led to online threats against migrants and Latino students at the University of Georgia. Although CNN hasn’t confirmed these threats, screenshots of menacing messages circulated within the Latino community, creating a fearful atmosphere.

Doblado decided not to attend a campus vigil due to her fear of being targeted for being Latina. After the vigil, she experienced harassment on campus when a man told her to go back to her own country after hearing her speak in Spanish on the phone.

Other students also reported threatening messages on YikYak, an anonymous social media app. One post, which has since been deleted, mentioned hunting migrants, causing distress among the Latino students.

CNN contacted the University of Georgia, which stated that harassment and discrimination are prohibited. YikYak, criticized in the past for harassment, returned with stricter content guidelines, automatically deleting posts with more than five downvotes.

The app now prohibits bullying, hate speech, threats, or sharing private information. However, recent posts targeting Latino students at UGA prompted CNN to reach out to YikYak for comment. Some posts on YikYak even called for violence against undocumented people and claimed Riley’s death was linked to Athens being a sanctuary city.

Initially, the campus community showed support for each other on YikYak, especially for Laken Riley. However, the tone quickly shifted, and the focus should have stayed on remembering those lost that week.

In 2022, about 7% of UGA’s students were Hispanic, as per the university’s info.

After a sad event, Latino student groups organized a support gathering for everyone to talk about their feelings together.

Emmett Hincapie, a UGA grad student of Puerto Rican and Colombian descent, shared how they started with a moment of silence and prayer. They focused on the mixed feelings from the loss and the ongoing discussions.

The Hispanic Student Association and Latinos Invested in the Students of Tomorrow released a statement against hurtful comments, urging unity on campus.

Jean-Luc Rivera from the Latino Community Fund of Georgia mentioned that the negative talk is scapegoating, blaming certain groups wrongly. It divides and weakens us, according to him.

Kimberly, a Salvadoran-Mexican American student, thinks the university should speak up to make her feel safer on campus.

After Riley’s death, UGA announced new safety measures, but some students feel the university isn’t doing enough to address the fears of Hispanic and Latino students.

Doblado feels UGA’s silence is disappointing, especially for Latino students dealing with both grief and fear.

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