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By Bill Landauer

When Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again” in 1940, he wasn’t thinking about a 21st century American president or a film & media studies (FAMS) and anthropology & sociology double major named Andrea Bonilla ’20.

But Wolfe’s words couldn’t have more dire meaning for both of them. Washington lawmakers have taken steps to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to which Bonilla owes her U.S residency.

Bonilla can no longer return to visit family in Ecuador, the country where she was born. Going there might mean she’d be barred from her return flight, unable to return to New York City, the city she has called home since she was 5 years old.

She could be forced out if DACA ends, anyway. It’s a shapeless fear that lurks in dark corners as she goes through daily life at Lafayette.

But rather than succumb to it, Bonilla has chosen to take dead aim at her nightmare. Last fall, she completed Not Like You, a short film about DACA featuring some of her classmates whose lives have been similarly pushed to the precipice.

“The goal is to make a difference,” Bonilla says.

Filmmaking has long been the lens through which Bonilla sees the world. She grew up in the medium; a child of the age of YouTube and smartphone cameras, Bonilla has been making movies since she was a youngster.

She took a sociology class. “I liked learning about why things are the way they are,” she says. “Why people do the things that they do. How society is structured.”

During her junior year in high school, she attended the Our Beloved Community event at Lafayette, “and it quickly became my first choice,” she says.

She applied and was accepted, but her family lacked the resources she needed to attend. Financial aid helped.

As a FAMS major, Bonilla found a sprawling new facility in which to work at the base of College Hill. Her vision is to combine her interests in discovering why the world works as it does with her filmmaking.

“I want to combine film and sociology in order to serve as an advocate for those who don’t have a voice,” she says. “There is a strong connection between the two.”

In the fall, the Trump administration announced its intention to dissolve DACA. “Louise Frazier in admissions and my film and media studies professor, Nandini Sikand, both reached out to offer support,” she says. “The professors and staff really care about their students. They are like family.”

She’s continuing to make a difference at Lafayette. Her film gives classmates and fellow DACA students a voice. It reflects the intense unease they feel. Bonilla was interviewed about the film on National Public Radio.

“Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t even be at school,” one classmate says in the film.

“I’m in college. I shouldn’t even be worrying about this,” says another. “I should be tackling my academics. Or my social life … I shouldn’t be worried about ‘Oh, you’re going to have to pack your stuff, and you’re going to have to leave the country tomorrow.”

“It’s mentally draining,” Bonilla says. “You do the normal things that everybody does. But you have this huge burden. You can’t make plans for your future. You don’t know what it’s going to be.”

Categorized in: Featured News, Film and Media Studies, Global Impact, Student Profiles, Students, The Arts