Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 23, 2020

Dreamers, allies march to protect DACA program

By RUDY MALCOM | November 14, 2019



Several Hopkins students walked out of class to show their solidarity with DACA recipients.

Thousands of students across the nation walked out of their classrooms on Nov. 8, four days before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday over the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has allowed nearly 800,000 individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, also known as Dreamers, to apply for work permits and avoid deportation. 

United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country, organized the walk-outs on Friday. 

About a dozen Hopkins students participated, marching in D.C. from Dupont Circle to the Supreme Court alongside other university and high school students in the Baltimore–D.C. metropolitan are. Demonstrators called on government officials to better protect immigrant youth and the broader immigrant community. 

Freshman Lubna Azmi explained why she attended the rally in an interview with The News-Letter

“This is something that hits close to home — not for me personally, but one of my best friends is a DACA recipient, and we’ve all had to see her struggle these past couple of years,” she said. “She may be undocumented, but she’s American, just like every single one of us. Knowing that she has to live in fear — that’s why I’m here.”

Azmi’s friend Anahi Figueroa-Flores came to the U.S. at the age of two with her mother and older sister. Figueroa-Flores is a junior at Georgetown University, where she serves as president of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights. The group, whose goal is to empower immigrant students on- and off-campus, helped organize the walk-outs in D.C. 

Addressing the crowd, Figueroa-Flores expressed concerns about her status. 

“I am undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic. And I’m exhausted. I’m tired of living with uncertainty. I’m tired of the government playing with my future,” she said. “Today I’m walking out for my community — all the undocumented youth and families and everyone who has made sacrifices.”

U.S. President Donald Trump announced in September 2017 that he would be terminating DACA within six months, characterizing the Obama administration’s implementation of DACA in 2012 through an executive order as unconstitutional. 

However, several lower courts have ruled that Trump’s plans were unlawful, allowing the program to be renewed for those already enrolled. 

Figueroa-Flores noted that thousands of immigrant youth who were too young to apply for DACA when Trump attempted to repeal the program have been prevented from receiving benefits, for which they would now be eligible.

“DACA has allowed me to attend Georgetown, but it’s not enough. Thousands of undocumented people in the U.S. do not have the opportunities and privilege that I do,” she said. 

Arisaid Gonzalez Porras, president of Hoyas for Immigrants Rights and a junior at Georgetown, echoed these sentiments. 

“I was 15 when I first got my work permit. I remember when it came in the mail, my mom said, ‘This is how you will get to college. This is your golden ticket.’ She was right. DACA allowed me to be here, to work, to feel like a normal person, even if it was only momentary,” she said. “I will never become a citizen or be given the right to vote.”

In an interview with The News-Letter, she expressed hope for future opportunities to unite with Hopkins students.

Junior Amani Nelson described why attending the march was meaningful.

“My grandfather immigrated here from Korea in the 1970s when it was really difficult for Asian Americans to come to this country, so DACA is something that’s super close to my heart,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here if immigrants weren’t allowed to make lives in the U.S.”

Freshman Keerti Soundappan expressed the importance of being an ally. 

“We’re here to support immigrants under DACA and to make sure that they’re recognized as having equal rights to anyone else that lives in this country,” she said. 

Freshman Gillian Thieroff emphasized the additional importance of voting.

“It’s great that there’s a movement going; people also need to remember to go to the polls,” she said.

Azmi encouraged Hopkins students to continue engaging civically. She wished that more of her peers had participated in the walkouts, adding that she believes that many Hopkins students do not know what DACA is.

Freshman Haadiya Ahmed agreed with Azmi’s assessment. 

“A lot of times at Hopkins, people don’t choose to learn more about these issues; they’re always focused on academics,” she said.

Azmi shared her ideas to remedy this going forward.

“A couple of other students and I are talking about establishing an immigrants’ rights club so that more awareness can be spread on campus and so that students who don’t have that security will have a place at Hopkins that has a name for them,” she said.

The day after Trump announced the phase-out period for DACA, University President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar released a statement affirming the University’s support of DACA and promising emergency aid for students if necessary. 

This September, administrators told The News-Letter that the  University would not be renewing its contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Nelson urged the University to further expand its support of Dreamers and other immigrant students.

“Ending the ICE contracts is a good start, but I think they could be doing more for students who come from immigrant backgrounds — giving more opportunities and more funding to the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which makes a place that is a predominantly white institution more welcoming for immigrants,” she said.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Figueroa-Flores suggested that Hopkins and Georgetown form a coalition with other universities in the region to better advocate for all immigrants’ rights.

“November 12 is only the beginning of a bigger and a larger fight. We need to fight for a permanent solution that will protect everyone regardless of where they came from,” she said.

The Supreme Court is not expected to make a decision on DACA until this spring, leaving the fates of about 700,000 Dreamers uncertain. 

On Tuesday, the conservative majority of the justices appeared to favor the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA. Nevertheless, Gonzalez Porras conveyed her determination in an interview with The News-Letter.

“Whatever happens with the Supreme Court decision, I am here to stay because this is my home,” she said.

Sabrina Abrams contributed reporting to this article.

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