Students hopeful after community support of DACA

Students gather to protest in defense of DACA on Central Campus Tuesday.

Students gather to protest in defense of DACA on Central Campus Tuesday. Buy this photo
Julia Lawson/Daily
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 8:21pm

Chants denouncing the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals filled the streets of Ann Arbor during BAMN’s Emergency Rally to Defend DACA early Tuesday evening. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights By Any Means Necessary organized the protest as a result of President Donald Trump’s recent decision to rescind the DACA policy. 

BAMN’s list of demands included defending DACA, turning Ann Arbor into a sanctuary city and taking action to stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and deportations. The event began with a rally explaining BAMN’s objectives in the Diag, followed by a march around campus.

Protesters included Ann Arbor community members and University of Michigan students from various backgrounds.

A portion of their flyer read, “This is the time to make our schools, campuses, cities and all of Michigan a real sanctuary for immigrants, by coming out in mass numbers to defeat Trump’s attack on DACA, stop his deportations and demand that Trump resign or be removed BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.”

Kate Stenvig, an organizer for BAMN, explained how similar strategies have created change and why it was crucial to continue protesting.

“We think that right now is our moment to pull out all of the stops to build a movement to defend DACA, to stop the policy of deportation and to get rid of Trump now,” she said. “I think that the fact that Trump did not think that he could get away with getting rid of DACA today but gave a 6-month window for Congress to act is a real credit to the movement and that so many of the people who have DACA are leaders.”

Stenvig also discussed how she saw the DACA repeal as an act of desperation on the Trump administration’s part.

“I think that we can definitely defend DACA and force Trump to resign or get removed because this is a disgusting, scandalous overreach on his part,” Stenvig said. “It’s also his next desperate attempt to show his racist base that he can deport a lot of people, but in reality, because of the movement in the last year, he’s been able to deport less people than Obama.”

The DACA policy was put into place during the Obama administration in 2012. It offered undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors the opportunity to receive deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a renewable, two-year work permit. To qualify, applicants must have all lived in the United States before the age of 16, not having any felonies or serious misdemeanors and living continuously in the United States since July 15, 2007.

One of these individuals is LSA freshman Sandra Perez. Perez grew up in the United States and discussed DACA’s importance not only in her life but also in the lives of others.

“It really has no effect on other people besides DACA students, but it’s great to advocate for them,” Perez said. “For myself, being a DACA student, I feel that it really empowers me and other students. There are so many benefits from DACA, for me it’s my driver’s license, social security and so much more. Trump’s removal of the DACA program is absolutely insane, and it really doesn’t make sense because there are so many students benefitting from the program.”

LSA freshman Michelle Alvarez echoed Perez’s statement and discussed how the policy has helped many people in her own life.

“Although I’m not a DACA student, I have a lot of family and friends that benefitted a lot from DACA,” Alvarez said. “I just want to support my friends and family because it’s very important for them to stay and study.”

Alvarez acknowledged that the United States is the only home that many of the DACA recipients know.

“I strongly disagree with what Trump is doing,” Alvarez said. “Some of the DACA students came here when they were young. I have a friend who came to the U.S. at the age of one, so it’s like taking away who she is because she basically grew up here, and just deporting her to another country that she doesn’t know is wrong.”

Perez worries the repeal will create an atmosphere of fear for many DACA students, and cause them to become afraid to stand up for themselves because of the threat of deportation.

“Because of the DACA repeal, many students won’t feel as powerful; they will go back into hiding, and they won’t speak up for what they believe,” Perez said. 

Though the repeal has caused distress for many people, both Perez and Stenvig are hopeful that the BAMN rally and other actions from the University community will protect the students who are affected.

“I’m hoping that the University goes against Trump,” Perez said. "I feel like the U of M community can empower its students and include its diverse components. They can just try to help the students feel at home, feel like it’s safe, and feel like you can come here and find comfort. For me especially, I feel like if the University said, ‘We welcome you,’ then I’d feel like, ‘Hey, I want to go to U of M and I want to stay here.’ I want them to make me feel included and not make me feel alienated.”

Stenvig is also impressed with the amount of support the movement has received and is confident people will continue to remain united.

“We’ve already seen a huge outpouring of support, even on the first day,” Stenvig said. “People are really outraged about this, and I think what we especially want to communicate is that we are really strong and that we can see this isn’t the end of DACA and that we have to respond to this as this is our moment to come out strong and keep marching until we get rid of Trump and his policies.”