EDITORIAL: Why do we need immigrant welcome signs across campus?


Signs have been popping up on lawns and fences throughout the United States, and they recently made their debut in Brookings. 

They don’t express support for a political candidate, nor do they declare support of a local sports team. They have a simple message: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” written in Spanish, English and Arabic. 

The signs, posted on private property and on the lawns of South Dakota State University residence halls, are meant to welcome immigrants to the communities of Brookings and SDSU.

But why are they needed in the first place?

While biking in Brookings last month, sociology major Aubrey Marina was stopped at an intersection. A driver rolled down his window, made derogatory comments about her race and said she should be deported. 

“(Diversity) doesn’t feel like it’s a priority,” Marina said. She was born in the United States, but due to her Native American and Mexican heritage, she feels ostracized by others because of her skin, and as a result feels less motivated to try and reach out to other students on campus. 

She thinks this kind of  behavior was emboldened by political turbulence and believes the signs are a step in the right direction. 

Marina expects they will raise awareness, spark conversation and hopefully bring about change. But people need to talk to make change, she said. 

The signs are not enough for her.

The signs began in a small Mennonite church in the town of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Pastor Matthew Bucher was disappointed in the anti-immigrant rhetoric being expressed in the political campaign of Donald Trump and wanted to show support for his multicultural neighbors. 

“Everyone, no matter where they’re from or what language they speak, deserves to feel welcome,” Bucher said in an interview with NPR. 

If the signs were meant to help counteract the isolationist policies of the Trump administration, that leaves an important question: are they working in Brookings?

“Yes and no,” said Viraj Patel, an international student and senior communication studies major. “I say yes because those signs are a way of telling (international students) that people know that there are horrible things that happen to immigrants and international students in our country. On the other hand, I don’t feel they do a lot, because of their obvious limitations. In the end it’s only a sign.”

It is possible that the lack of willingness to do more than put up signs was what deteriorated the situation to its current state.

However, our editorial staff is not diverse enough to comment on the struggles of people in the international and minority communities. 

Instead, we would ask them. Do you feel welcome? Do the signs help make you feel that way? More importantly, what can each of us, as citizens of this country, and students at SDSU, do to make you feel more at home?

We can’t comment on the struggles faced by racial minorities, but we are willing to listen.

Reach out to us.

The Collegian Editorial Board meets weekly and agrees on the issue of the editorial. The editorial represents the opinion of The Collegian.