Following the suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program earlier this week, a flood of protests and demonstrations proliferated throughout the country as a result. Two University of Northern Colorado students, in response to the program’s phasing out, held a “Dream without Borders” rally Thursday night in UNC’s Garden Theatre, in the hopes of unifying immigrant students.
DACA, an Obama-era executive order, was designed to give some protection to children brought into the United States without any sort of legal documentation. This program gave a number of protections for these individuals, including opportunities to earn a college degree and work in the labor force, without the fear of being deported back to their home country.
The decision to allow DACA to expire has resulted in much anger, frustration and controversy across U.S. campuses. “Dream without Borders” serves as an example of one of these responses to DACA’s suspension. According to organizers, the purpose of the event was to demonstrate solidarity with UNC’s DACA students. Currently, there are roughly 100 students on campus who receive DACA benefits. Over 100 people joined together for this rally, voicing their chants and holding their picket signs in protest.
Tim Hernandez, an English major and multi-cultural ambassador for the Office of Admissions, along with admissions counselor Rudy Vargas, organized and hosted this event together as a response to the Trump administration’s decision to allow DACA to expire.
“We wanted to organize something for students and people in general to ensure they feel supported. I’m so proud of how this turned out and seeing this huge community of support,” Hernandez said.
“It’s infuriating to see Donald Trump ending this program. We have some of the hardest working and motivated students receiving DACA benefits here at UNC and it will be a shame for them not being able to achieve their goals and dreams,” Vargas said.
Vargas also shared his veneration of a former teacher in the Denver school area who served as an inspiration to him as well as many other students. This teacher in particular is also considered a DACA individual. Because of this new executive order, people like her face the risk of being relocated to another country, despite having resided in the United States for most of her life.
“Every single person who applies for DACA has to go through a criminal background check also,” Vargas said. “Less than one percent out of the 800,000 DACA individuals has any criminal charges.”
The people who were once protected by DACA run the risk of losing their benefits. These individuals are also at risk of being deported back to their home country, as arbitrated by the U.S. Government.
“A lot of these DACA Students and individuals may, therefore, be forced back to a country in which they have no knowledge whatsoever of its language, people, or government,” Vargas said. “Imagine living in the United States with Mexican heritage, then finding out you have no choice but relocating back Mexico, despite not knowing even how to speak Spanish. That’s what going to happen with many of these individuals.”
Hernandez echoed Vargas’ sentiments.
“Living as an immigrant, you can literally uproot everything, choose to live in the United States, and do it all for the advancement and future of your children and still, nothing is a guarantee,” Hernandez said.
Other key speakers were featured in this rally, including Assistant Vice-President of Equity and Inclusion Fleurette “Flo” King and Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student access Tobias Guzman.
“As students, we must also do our part,” Said UNC Student Body President Kevion Ellis. “We must contact our representatives and strongly urge them to continue protecting DACA students. We will continue our unwavering support for DACA students here at student senate.
“This is not a moment but a movement,” Hernandez said.
In the meantime, students can turn towards allies in Enrollment Management and Student Access, cultural and resource centers, Dean of Students office, Student Life office, CHE, Stryker, Equity and Inclusion, Equity and Compliance office, Counseling Center and the many faculty and staff available for support.