Over 100 Georgetown University students advocated for immigrants without documentation in a walkout Nov. 8 before a Supreme Court hearing on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Tuesday.
The #HomeIsHere Walkout was hosted by Hoyas For Immigrant Rights and co-sponsored by over 40 other student clubs and university organizations. The HFIR-led walkout was part of the national #HomeIsHere movement, which advocates for the preservation of DACA. The Friday walkout had 157 attendees, according to HFIR President Arisaid Gonzalez Porras (COL ’21).
DACA, a policy introduced by former President Barack Obama in 2012, provides protections to immigrants who arrived in the country without documentation before the age of 16. The rights included in the legislation encompass eligibility for work permits and renewable protection from deportation. An estimated 700,000 individuals in the United States are DACA recipients, according to U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
President Donald Trump announced plans to dismantle DACA in 2017. After numerous lawsuits, including those by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Regents of the University of California, many federal courts have deemed the motion to end DACA unlawful. Following these suits, the case was brought up to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments by Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Washington lawyer Theodore Olson and California Solicitor General Michael Mongan, among others, on Nov. 12.
The #HomeIsHere Walkout began on Healy Lawn, where organizers handed out shirts and beanies that said “Unstoppable, Undeniable, Undocumented, and Unafraid” to attendees. Four Georgetown DACA recipients spoke on their experiences as immigrants without documentation, including former Georgetown University Student Association President and current GUSA senate Speaker Juan Martinez (SFS ’20). Students without documentation face obstacles in accessing opportunities and resources because of their status, according to Martinez.
“The older I got, the more I started to understand what it meant. It was often defined by nots or things I couldn’t do,” Martinez said at the walkout. “Whenever I asked in high school to be able to go to other states for debate tournaments or even to go abroad, I was told I couldn’t because I was undocumented. When someone broke into our house and attempted to assault and rob my mother, I asked her why we couldn’t do anything about it, and she said it was because we were undocumented.”
After the speeches, participants marched from Georgetown’s front gates to Dupont Circle. When they arrived at the Supreme Court, they were joined by 15 local high schools and universities at the event. HFIR requested and was granted city permits as well as police escorts and medics for participants to ensure student safety, according to Arelis Palacios, associate director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and associate director for Undocumented Student Services.
Walkout attendees included representatives from various student groups, including GUSA President Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20), who spoke on his own behalf, and GUSA Vice President Aleida Olvera (COL ’20). The GUSA executive supports students without documentation on campus, according to Francis.
“We hope to be in solidarity with Hoyas for Immigrant Rights and a lot of our mixed-status students and undocumented students as well,” Francis said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is something Aleida and I care very deeply about.”
The university has also shown its support for undocumented students by joining 18 other colleges and universities in filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on Oct. 7 in support of DACA. Previously, University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) and other university presidents in October 2017 urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would grant residency status to many minors who are currently part of DACA.
The walkout was intended to emphasize how the Supreme Court’s decision would affect the future of DACA recipients in their aspirations, according to an email circulated by HFIR to its members before the demonstration.
“If the DACA program ends, all our DACA students on campus run this risk of deportation and lose their ability to enter their career fields after graduation,” the email read. “Therefore, walkouts are being planned all over DC by high schools and universities to show the nation this is an issue that will impact more than just the 800,000 DACA recipients.”
Before the event, HFIR organized two poster-making events, one at La Casa Latina on Nov. 6 and one at the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service building on Nov. 7, and also held two information sessions in the Intercultural Center on Oct. 30 and Nov. 3.
The walkout was sponsored by numerous student groups and university organizations, including the CSJ. Sponsoring the #HomeIsHere Walkout aligns with the CSJ’s support for DACA and Temporary Protected Status students.
“The Center for Social Justice stands with DACA and TPS recipients and their families, some who are fellow Hoyas,” CSJ Associate Director Ray Shiu wrote in an email to The Hoya. “CSJ will continue to support HFIR’s advocacy and activism as they continue to live out Georgetown’s mission and values; they truly are living as Hoyas For Others.”
The walkout reflected Georgetown’s solidarity with students without documentation and set the precedent that students without documentation will continue to be a strong presence at Georgetown, according to Porras.
“With everything that has happened on and off campus, the solidarity and support my peers showed was incredible,” she wrote in an email to the Hoya. “Moving forward, we continue to host events, dialogues, and actions where needed. Our presence is strong on campus and we hope it continues.”