Nearly 100 Georgetown students, professors and community members gathered by the front gates Saturday, posters in hand, and began their march down M Street toward the White House, chanting, “Obama, escucha, estamos en lucha!” or “Obama, listen, we are fighting!” and “What do we want? Justice!” in protest of the record numbers of deportations that have occurred during President Obama’s time in office.
The rally, protesting the nearly 2 million deportations that have occurred under the Obama administration, was part of a National Day of Action that occurred in over 40 cities across the United States. Protesters demanded that the president use his executive power to end deportations.
“We’re asking the president to put a moratorium on deportation, because he claims that he’s the champion of immigration reform, but in the process, it doesn’t seem like immigration reform is actually going to happen anytime soon. And while this is happening there are thousands of people getting deported every day,” President for Hoyas for Immigrants Rights Citllalli Alvarez (COL ’16) said.
En route to the White House, Georgetown protesters rallied with fellow advocates marching from Mt. Pleasant in northwestern D.C. The group included a large number of local immigrants.
“It was one of the most beautiful parts of the march when both sides came together, it was very loud, it was very emotional,” said Salvador Sarmiento, National Campaign Coordinator at the National Day Labor Organizing Network, who marched with the Mt. Pleasant group.
Hoyas for Immigrant Rights board member Martin De Leon (SFS ’16) described the meeting of the two groups as one of his proudest moments as a Georgetown student.
“I think my absolute favorite part of the rally and the climax was joining the other activists in D.C at that collision point where we joined their march, and they received us with cheers, and we were cheering also. I had not felt prouder to be a Hoya until that moment. It was just amazing,” De Leon said.
Once the combined group arrived at the White House, the march joined hundreds of protesters and listened to musical performances and speakers offering personal testimonials related to immigration law and reform.
“I’m sure that they heard our cries, I’m sure they knew that we were out there. They are aware that people are very frustrated with the president, that people are sick of hearing excuses and they want to see action,” Community Organizer for D.C. Immigrants Rights Coalition Anna Duncan said.
Among the speakers was a woman who stood up to speak about her husband being deported shortly after learning she was pregnant.
“We have a broken immigration system and we can’t allow that to continue. We need to move forward,” she said. “Obama had a dream and his dream was to be president. … Now it is time to make our dreams come true.”
While led and organized by campus immigration advocacy organizations Hoyas for Immigrant Rights and the Georgetown University Immigration Coalition, the march was characterized by the participation of numerous on-campus groups including the Black House, Students for Justice in Palestine, Moviemiento Estudiantil [email protected] de Aztlán and the College Democrats.
“We’ve definitely thought that the struggle for rights for undocumented workers is something that’s really essential to the democratic cause, and it’s something a lot of Georgetown students and our members are really interested in, so that’s our main motivation for sponsoring it,” College Democrats President Chandini Jha (COL ’16) said.
De Leon also stressed the universality of this issue as one that affects everyone in D.C.
“It’s not solely Hoyas for Immigrant Rights as much as it’s also Caribbean Culture Club, it’s also College Democrats, NAACP, BSA. We’ve gotten support from all types of cultural groups, it’s not so much a restrictive issue, it’s a universal issue,” De Leon said.
Rally attendee and President of Students for Justice in Palestine Leila Shebaro (SFS ’15) addressed the similarities between the struggles of undocumented Latino immigrants in America and those of the Palestinians.
“We feel that we have a responsibility to show solidarity with these people not only because, historically, there’s a very strong tradition of solidarity between Latino communities with Palestinians,” Shebaro said. “Many of the same structures of oppression that are faced by undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are very similar to those faced by Palestinians. The same kind of cycles of economic disenfranchisement, criminalization that you see down to the point where they’re not just coincidentally similar. For example, the same companies that helped build the West Bank barrier are helping to construct the border fence.”
SJP member John Flanagan (SFS ’14) compared the criminalization and lack of basic human rights he said both groups face because of the belief held by some that they are not citizens or are unworthy of citizenship.
“I think that there’s a lot of intersections in the way that the law is used to oppress people and to deny them their basic human rights,” Flanagan said. Georgetown students who attended the march from campus and the rally praised the high levels of support from the Georgetown community.
“It’s something that very directly affects our community and it is viewed as a very separate issue a lot of the time. There is a very human dimension to it and there are families that are separated because of it,” Coordinator for the Kalmanovitz Initative’s Day Laborer Exchange Program Sophia Sepp (SFS ’14) said. “They are just trying to find a job, and they face a lot of injustice and obstacles because of their legal status. We’re all kind of interconnected.”
“As students we have a lot of power to help these people and we have a voice,” said Araceli Vazquez (COL ‘14), a member of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights and Students Stopping the Trafficking of People. “A lot of these people are barely coming out of the shadows and it’s important to push along immigration reform.”
Hoya Staff Writer Katherine Richardson contributed reporting.