DREAMers on Grounds host walk out to support undocumented immigrants

Students gather to hear stories from DACA recipients

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Rawda Fawaz, a third-year College student and vice president of DREAMers on Grounds, spoke to event attendees about the purpose of the gathering.

Charlotte McClintock | Cavalier Daily

DREAMers on Grounds hosted a walk-out Wednesday afternoon to raise awareness to issues facing undocumented immigrants. The event titled “Walk Out for Immigrant Rights” took place on the first day of the 11th month at 11:11 a.m. to represent the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The Latinx Student Alliance and Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society co-hosted the event.

Over 100 students showed up to listen to University and high school students tell their personal accounts of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant. The speakers shared emotional stories of immigrating as children to the U.S. from countries including South Korea, Pakistan and El Salvador.

Eleven chairs with signs reading phrases like “My dreams are not illegal” and “If they don’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep” were kept in the Amphitheater for the remainder of the day  — another symbol of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has provided those who arrived in the U.S. as children with temporary protection and the ability to receive certain benefits such as getting a driver’s license, attending college and having access to secure jobs. The program does not, however, offer its recipients a path to citizenship. 

Many DACA recipients were able to renew during the month-long period following Trump’s September decision to end DACA. However, other recipients could start losing their protected status when their DACA expires as early as March if Congress does not pass a bill to continue their protection. There are currently 31 DACA recipients at the University.

Rawda Fawaz, a third-year College student and the vice president of DREAMers on Grounds, opened the event telling the audience the intention of the walk-out was to stand in solidarity with undocumented immigrants and to give some of those in the community a platform to share their experiences. 

“We are here to support the 11 million undocumented people in the United States and demand a clean DREAM Act and tell their stories,” Fawaz said. “[DACA is] a program that helped out 800,000 people attend school and have a work license. The end of DACA has sparked a lot of outrage … We’re here not just for those 800,000 people, but for the 11 million people who live in this country’s shadows.”

Fourth-year College student Jacky Cortez Nava was the main organizer of the event and is a DACA recipient herself. She stated the importance of spreading their message to people who are not familiar with the problems facing the immigrant community.

“I hope this event inspires and encourages other undocumented students and other allies, but also people who just aren’t aware or don’t know that it means to be undocumented or have never heard any of the stories,” Cortez Nava said.

Raquel Talbott, a fourth-year College student and LSA president, wants the event to demonstrate the community’s support for the immigrants whose futures remain uncertain.

“We have to show up for them, and we have to give them support because oftentimes this is a really vulnerable population,” Talbot said. “It’s to provide them with a voice which they think they don’t have or are too scared to show.”

Second-year College student Brian Zuluaga is the son of immigrants from Colombia and attended the walk-out because it raises awareness to a problem greatly affecting his family and friends. 

“I know the struggles that my parents went through, and seeing the stories of the people that spoke today is hard,” Zuluaga said. “As big as the problems that we think we have in our daily lives [are], it just doesn’t amount to what undocumented people are going through today. I think the main thing is they need support, they need allies, they need people to show that this is an issue that needs to be humanized.”

Read this article translated in Chinese here.

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