DACA students join nationwide walkout

MJ Johnson

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The conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Nov.12 on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and their intentions to shut it down. Undocumented students on SF State’s campus organized a walkout to retaliate. 

The students joined nationwide walkouts from Los Angeles to New York City to demand the Supreme Court to uphold DACA. Nearly 30 students gathered in the SF State quad carrying handmade signs with slogans like “Abolish ICE” and “I stand with immigrants.” They wore printed T-shirts stating “Undocumented and unafraid” to show their support. 


Vanni Castillo, an undocumented graduate student, holds up a megaphone during an undocumented student walkout in the SF State Quad Nov. 12 (Photo by MJ Johnson / Golden Gate Xpress)

DACA offers temporary legal status and protection from deportation for undocumented people who arrived to the U.S. as children. DACA legal status gives recipients legal employment and educational opportunities. Vanni Castillo, an undocumented graduate student who organized the rally, said he wanted to educate undocumented students about what is happening in the Supreme Court. He shouted chants into a megaphone, his voice echoing off the library building. 

“I want to lead the example” said Castillo, who organized with students from Improving Dreams Equity Access and Success (IDEAS), the Dream Resource Center (DRC) and the La Raza student organization. “We want to let them know that what’s happening wont stop us from thriving, wont stop us from fighting, wont stop us from being unafraid.”

The conservative justices continue to signal the ending of the Obama-era program. DACA, during the Trump administration, has been under constant threat after the administration rescinded the program in 2017, calling it an example of executive overreach and unconstitutional. Three federal appeals courts have since ruled in favor of DACA, stating that because numerous people, businesses and the U.S. economy rely heavily on the program, the administration must provide more sufficient reasoning for ending DACA. The White House has appealed those decisions bringing the DREAMers to face a conservative majority in the Supreme Court.

“It’s important to show support for the group that supported me through my education,” said Paula Garcia, who graduated last spring but found a community through the DRC while at school. “I’ve been targeted by ICE so I want to stand up and fight for the things I believe in. We all had to grow some balls to do this rally.”

Castillo pounded on a saucepan with a wooden spoon, until the spoon splintered sending shards into the wet grass. He said he was inspired by protests in Chile that use cacerolazo — banging pots and yelling to demand attention —  which started in Chile during the 1971 protest about food shortages and into the Augusto Pinochet regime. Now in 2019, the tradition continues as people use cacerolazo during the ongoing bloody protests which arose in response to an increase in the Santiago Metro’s subway fare, the increased cost of living, privatisation and wealth inequality in the country.

The organizers drew connections to the problems that they face as undocumented students to the problems of larger global movements like the Free Palestine movement. Maria Galvadon, the president of IDEAS who organized the rally with Castillo, said the border of Mexico was similar to the Israel-Palestine border. 

“One side is poverty and people starving while the other side is paved roads and American fast food companies,” Galvadon said. “The only thing that’s different is how the laws work, but people are still dying, they are still trying to gain a better life and trying to gain their humanity back.”

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services there are 700,000 DACA recipients nationwide. Their legal status as residents is in the hands of the Supreme Court justices who will likely return a ruling next spring. Although the conservative justices appeared likely to support the White House’s halt on DACA, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned the administrations reasons. 

“This is not about the law,” Justice Sotomayor said. “This is about our choice to destroy lives.” 

Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing the Trump administration, said during rebuttal that the administration had decided to shut down DACA even if it was legal or not. President Trump tweeted before the hearings that DACA recipients are “far from ‘angels. Some are tough, hardened criminals.”

A report by USCIS found that 7% of DACA approvals had prior arrest or apprehension compared to nearly 30% arrest rate of U.S. adults. Supporters of DACA argue that recipients contribute greatly to society and the economy. According to research by the American Action Forum, Dreamers contribute $3.4 billion annually in taxes and $42 billion to the GDP. 

CSU estimates 9,500 undocumented students attend CSU campuses statewide. In 2018, the DRC approximated 500-700 DACA recipient students are at SF State. The DRC offers educational, personal and legal help to undocumented students.

“I want to send a message to the school and the community that we’re not going to stand down,” a DACA recipient student who works with the DRC, Tonya Nicasio Michalena said at the rally. “We are strong. We are not going to lose this fight.”