On a chilly Thursday afternoon, more than 200 protesters marched across the UTRGV Edinburg campus during the “Solidarity Walkout” to voice their concerns on the changes to the DACA program and urged university administration to create a Dreamer Center.
“As one of the largest populated institutions in Texas with undocumented students, we feel like we should stand in solidarity with them, because we don’t share their same fights, but we understand the fear that’s instilled,” said Aileen Garza, a UTRGV social work junior and member of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE). “[It’s instilled] in us and it’s instilled 10 times in them. We shouldn’t ignore that they are here.”
On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive order by then-President Barack Obama that protected nearly 800,000 people.
DACA provides young people who were brought to the United States as children with temporary protection from deportation if they can demonstrate that they meet several criteria, according to whitehouse.gov.
However, Trump’s change on DACA gives Congress six months to consider appropriate legislative solutions.
The protest began at 11:40 a.m., when students walked out of their classes and made their way to the Quad’s “Tree of Solidarity.”
The Rider spoke with a group of Mathematics and Science Academy students who walked out of their U.S. History I class.
“I believe that this is a matter that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Alexa Calleja, an MSA junior and biology freshman. “Education should not depend on a status. Everyone, just for being a human being, deserves and has the right to their education.”
Criztian Jepsen, an MSA junior and biology freshman, said he decided to walk out of his class and attend the rally to “fight a problem that has been engraved in our nation for a long time.”
“This is about human beings and every human being has basic rights,” Jepsen said. “They should have these rights no matter what. They should have equal opportunities everywhere.”
Cecilia Ledezma, an MSA junior and engineering freshman, told The Rider she believes everyone should support all immigrants because they will never know how they’re being affected.
Calleja, Jepsen and Ledezma were part of a group of about 20 students who walked out of their U.S. History I class.
At noon, the march began with two large groups of about 100 people walking through the north and south sides of the Bronc Trail. Both groups met in front of the Student Services Building.
In universities across the nation, walkouts to demand a “clean” DREAM act took place. Protesters marched in Washington, D.C., Florida and Oregon.
Walkouts were organized by La Union de Chicanxs Hijxs de Aztlán (LUCHA) in collaboration with the national organization United We Dream. The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), the UTRGV Mexican American Studies program (MAS), the Texas Freedom Network and URGE helped host the walkout at UTRGV.
During the march and rally, protesters held up signs with such messages as, “Education Not Deportation,” “Here to Stay” and “Justice for DREAMers.”
While gathered in front of the Student Services Building, Alejandro Sanchez, a UTRGV Mexican American Studies graduate student and LUCHA member, asked Student Government Association President Alondra Galvan to help pass a resolution to build a Dreamer Center at UTRGV.
“I would like to meet with the students,” Galvan responded. “If that is something you truly want, we can go ahead and work together and gather all the information, so we can present it to [UTRGV President Guy] Bailey.”
Representatives from all organizations present encouraged students to call U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and demand they work on creating a “clean” DREAM Act.
At UTRGV, about 900 DREAMers are enrolled.
DREAMers are individuals who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1403, also known as the Texas DREAM Act, which extends in-state tuition and grants eligibility to non-citizen residents of the state, according to forabettertexas.org.
After the rally, protesters made their way to the intersection of Sugar Road and University Boulevard, where they stood in front of the university’s letters. Drivers cheered, honked their horns and gave a thumbs up in support of the marchers.
Throughout the march and rally, protesters voiced their displeasure with different chants, including “¡Bailey, escucha, estamos en la lucha!” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here!”
Bianca Castro, a UTRGV psychology junior and president of YDSA, said she hopes the protest can send a message to the U.S. Congress and university officials to take action and support DACA recipients.
“Here at this university, we want to urge our administration to form a Dreamer Center,” Castro said. “A place where these students can go and get guidance, can get specialized guidance and counseling throughout their entire college career.”
Jonathon Salinas, a 2015 UTRGV graduate and a community organizer at LUPE, was among the protesters. Salinas said he thinks it is good to show unity among the student body.
“Over at LUPE, we believe that it’s through unifying ourselves and community organizing that change can come along,” he said. “We came to support the students and their struggle, and it’s good to see them united and together to see the change they want to see.”
Stephanie Alvarez, a UTRGV Mexican American Studies associate professor, spoke at the close of the protest.
Alvarez told The Rider she was there to support the students and all their efforts.
“From what I understand, [the students] planned this for less than a week,” she said. “I do think it speaks a lot [about] how passionate people are about this and how important it is. … It shows just how important the issue is.”
The protest ended with the reciting of “In Lak’ech,” a Mayan precept that translates to “You are another me.”
“Tú eres mi otro yo, you are my other me; si te hago daño a ti, if I do harm to you, me hago daño a mi mismo, I do harm to myself; si te amo y respeto, if I love and respect you, me amo y respeto yo, I love and respect myself.”