Undocumented immigrant youth woke up with freedom on their minds. Monday marks six months since Donald Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as the deadline he gave Congress to act on permanent legislation to protect DACA recipients. They have all abdicated their sworn duties, but immigrant youth and their allies haven’t forgotten, or given up.
In rallies in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, thousands of undocumented immigrant youth and their allies—including community, faith and labor leaders—marched to call on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate to pass narrow and permanent protections for immigrant youth, like the DREAM Act.
In Washington, D.C., hundreds, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), marched from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to Capitol Hill, culminating in an act of civil disobedience where dozens locked arms and blocked a major intersection near the Capitol building. Police ordered the group to disperse but were rebuffed. “This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd chanted back.
As some demonstrators—including several disabled activists in wheelchairs—were getting led away by police in plastic shackles, the crowd of immigrant youth and supporters surrounding the intersection roared back songs and chants of support. “We see you!” they cried. “We love you!”
Many were willing to put their bodies on the line because their lives are on the line. While recent court injunctions have resurrected portions of DACA, the program’s days continue to be numbered as unleashed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) mass deportation continue to wreak havoc on the lives of immigrant families.
“I’m here defending my children,” Ingrid Vaca, an undocumented mom and leader with immigrant rights group DREAMers Moms, told Daily Kos. The organization has advocated not just for undocumented immigrant youth—they famously challenged Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for his immigration inaction several years ago—but for immigrant moms who have been deported. Vaca told Daily Kos that she sees the entire movement of immigrant youth as her adopted kids.
“As a mother, I feel protected knowing my kids are protected,” she said looking out over the crowd. “But I feel sad, to see these kids, many of whom didn’t apply or couldn’t apply … they’re going to continue living in limbo.” And at risk of deportation. DACA recipient Juan Escalante wrote in a recent Huffington Post column “that there are no signs that ICE will slow down its mass deportation operations, and you can bet that it will try to use every trick in its cruel book to detain Dreamers at any chance it gets.”
During a rally in front of the Capitol building shortly before the act of civil disobedience, Kimberly Guzman, a young girl whose undocumented dad is facing deportation, spoke out for unity against hateful policies from the Trump administration. “If my dad gets deported, I don’t know what I would do,” she said. “He has been something I’ve been proud of every single day of my life.” Following her remarks, Kimberly ran to her father’s arms for an embrace, and he began to cry.
Alejandra Gonzalez, another rally attendee, was there to support the DREAM Act for undocumented immigrants like her cousin. He’s currently detained and she said that he has been treated so inhumanely, he’s opted to sign a form that’ll result in his deportation. “This is the face of the people” who are being deported by this administration, she said. “It’s time to put a face to them, because without a face, Congress won’t believe it true.”
The administration will keep pushing lies and misconceptions to enact their anti-immigrant agenda, but remember, it’s always about families and parents like Kimberly’s. “Put yourselves, for five minutes, in the shoes of these young people,” Vaca said when asked about what she would like to tell Congress on Trump’s deadline to act. “Remember when you were young, and had all those dreams to succeed. Remember you’re parents too and have children, and if those children get hurt, you’ll feel hurt too. We want them to remember.”