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AU students rally for a ‘clean DREAM act’ at Senate building

Protesters from across the D.C. region gathered on Nov. 9

On the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election as president, AU students and organizations participated in a national walkout and rally calling for Congress to pass a “clean DREAM act” on Nov. 9. Students from across the D.C. region marched in partnership with United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization that fights for undocumented immigrants.

In September, Trump announced that his administration will begin phasing out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, which protects 11 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The initiative, established during the Obama administration, allows immigrants to get an education, work and obtain a social security number and government ID without fear of deportation.

Trump’s decision to end DACA sparked protests from AU students on Sept. 9. Protesters at Thursday’s Clean DREAM Act rally also included several AU students calling for a path to citizenship with permanent protection and no “dangerous enforcement add-ons” for undocumented people in the U.S., according to the event page.

AU’s Latinx and American Student Organization (LASO), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. (Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad) were among the organizations who participated in the demonstration. One of the lead organizers for the AU contingent was sophomore Erika Soto.

“This was my first time ever organizing an event, so there were many things I had to do in preparation,” Soto said. “Much work was put into this and the end results were well worth it.”

Soto said her preparation included reaching out to the Washington College of Law, meeting with professors, and hosting an event to make posters for the rally. In addition, Soto said she reached out to Student Government President Taylor Dumpson to promote the event and coordinated with the AU Club Council and Public Safety to make sure the rally would be peaceful.

Soto said she got involved because she has a passion for the Latinx community and justice.

“I do not see why someone’s status can differentiate them from U.S. citizens,” Soto said. “We all have dreams and aspirations and should be able to reach them without any barriers, especially not by a piece of paper.”

Soto said she is also frustrated by what she sees as AU’s lack of action on behalf of undocumented students, especially with Trump as president. University President Sylvia Burwell said in September that AU “supports DACA students and will continue to offer protection to the full extent allowed by law.”

“I was tired of seeing AU do nothing about undocumented youth since Trump announced he would repeal DACA and I thought it was time to take action and United We Dream provided me with that opportunity,” Soto said. “A Clean DREAM Act matters to me not only because it affects my community, but because it affects my two older brothers who are DACA beneficiaries. I am tired of living in fear and it is time for Congress to pass a Clean DREAM Act.”

Senior Yamillet Payano was also a key organizer for the AU contingent of the rally. Payano runs the Cross Campus Organizing Network, a “platform for collaborating organizations to address the inequalities & obstacles faced by students identifying as undocumented and international,” according to the organization’s about page.

Payano told The Eagle that she helped organize the event because both of her parents are undocumented and currently in the process of obtaining American citizenship.

“I lived under the fear that they were going to be deported at any time,” Payano said. “Because I am part of that immigrant community, I don’t understand why is it that they feel American but on paper they can’t be American. This is for those 11 million undocumented folks that still need protection.”

The rally started on the steps of the Mary Graydon Center at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, with around 25 students meeting to travel to the Tenleytown Metro station. The group traveled to Union Station and ultimately marched to the Hart Senate Office Building. 

While walking to the Metro station, students chanted “Undocumented, unafraid,” “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and “ El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido,” which translates to “The people united will never be defeated.” Students held signs that read,“Did I stutter?” with a drawing of Lady Liberty, “DREAMS ARE NOT ILLEGAL,” “Dreaming is America” and “Defend DACA.” 

Once the AU protesters arrived at the Senate building, they were joined by other protesters across the region including students from Georgetown University and George Washington University.

People piled inside the main corridor of the building and filled in balconies up to the fourth floor of the building. Once organizers gave the signal, people started protesting, chanting and yelling for a Clean DREAM Act.

After 20 minutes of protesting, police officers stated that protesters had three warnings to stop protesting before they were arrested. The Eagle saw several people there who were arrested. AU students left after around 30 minutes of protesting.

Several marched out in a larger protest, again chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”

As they returned to AU, several freshmen told The Eagle that they protested due to their personal connections to DACA recipients.

“I’m here because one of my best friends is a DREAM Act recipient and if I could have an education, why can’t she?” said freshman Brian Lopez. “We all deserve an education no matter where we were born.”

Freshman Olivia Deally, who was with Lopez and fellow freshman Sharis Galeano, said she came to the rally because she wanted to show support with the Latinx community.

“It’s just important to be a part of a community and show solidarity with a community that is suffering right now,” Deally said.

Soto said the rally was “very powerful,” and that Congress heard their message calling for a clean DREAM Act.

“But it does not stop here,” Soto said. “It is not too late. This is only the beginning because Congress must pass a clean DREAM Act by December.”

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