The past few weeks have been a prime time for natural disasters to occur. Hurricane Harvey hurtled through Texas and Louisiana, and Hurricane Irma flew in right behind it, blasting Caribbean islands and on its way to Florida. These are distressing times. People feel unsafe; terrified to lose their homes, their livelihoods and the people they hold dear.
This past week has also brought about a not-so-natural disaster with the same effects. On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the beginning of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The DACA program was initiated through an executive order in 2012 by former President Barack Obama. DACA protects certain immigrants who came into the United States illegally as children from getting immediately deported.
As a Dreamer, the fitting name for the recipients of DACA, young undocumented immigrants are allowed a deferral of deportation, a postponement that lasts for two years and can be renewed. They are also given a work permit so they can support themselves and their endeavor to follow the American Dream.
Not every immigrant is eligible to be a part of the program. A person is able to become a Dreamer if they were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012, came to the U.S. before turning the age of 16 and have constantly lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
In addition to those conditions, Dreamers must have a high school diploma, pass the General Education Development (GED) test, be in school or have been honorably discharged from a branch of the military to remain in the program.
Criminals are not eligible to become Dreamers, which means those who are a part of DACA are encouraged to succeed and create a stable life for themselves and their families.
Though President Donald Trump has said and tweeted contradicting things regarding the program, the one stable fact of regarding DACA is that he has given Congress only six months to create a replacement legislation to reform immigration, an endeavor they have tried and failed to do for many years. Undocumented immigrants all over the country live in fear of what the future may hold for them.
Over 800,000 undocumented immigrants are protected by DACA: over 800,000 people who have known no other home, who have struggled to make a living, who trusted our government to not go back on their word and need support from anyone willing to help.
Many at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro recognized the impact the ending of DACA will make on the country and decided to speak out and show their support to those in the program, the Dreamers, by rallying together.
On Thursday, at 5 p.m., UNCG faculty, students and alumni gathered at the Fountain View steps with banners, posters and bullhorns for the #DefendDACA march. Stretching from North Drive to College Ave., to Spring Garden St. to Tate St. and all over campus, walkers in the march held their signs as high as their voices.
Brian Shuford was among these marchers. Of his interpretation of DACA, Shuford said, “It’s a way out of systemic racism and systemic discrimination, and it’s–if current course stands, it’s going to be eliminated. It gives people that didn’t have a say in when they came here, it gives them hope, it gives them a choice, because they didn’t have a choice when they came here, and now, because of what’s happening in the leadership, they still don’t have a choice when they’re potentially being sent back.”
Many posters shared words of support such as, “Protect 800,000 Dreams” and “UNCG stands with Dreamers.” Along with signs, those with loud voices or a handy bullhorn started chants such as, “Say it loud, say it clear: immigrants are welcome here” and “Up-up with education; down-down with deportation.”
No matter where they walked, someone was always there to take pictures and spread the word over social media. People who weren’t a part of the march joined in on the chants or started to march along with the rest of the walkers. Drivers honked their horns, bystanders cheered and everyone’s voice was heard.
At the end of the march, everyone gathered together on the EUC lawn to share their thoughts, feelings and personal stories related to DACA.
The #DefendDACA march, created by freshman theatre major, Courtney Walker, was inspired after seeing Jeff Session’s announcement, and although not personally affected by DACA, she knew she had to do something.
“People that are unaffected by DACA should especially care about it because we have the privilege to speak on the issue without our rights being threatened,” said Walker.
If you were unable to attend the rally and wish to make an effort to defend DACA, Walker suggested “getting in contact with state representatives.” A simple way to do this is by texting RESIST to 50409, which sends a message to your senator.