Students from Georgetown will take to the streets this Saturday as part of a nationwide protest of the Obama administration’s deportation of undocumented immigrants, encompassing 40 cities in a National Day of Action.
Hoyas for Immigrant Rights and the Georgetown University Immigration Coalition, two student groups advocating immigration reform, in coalition with Movimiento Estudiantil [email protected] de Aztlán, or MEChA, will lead a march to the rally from Georgetown’s front gates starting at 12 p.m. Approximatly 200 people are expected to attend the rally in front of the White House.
“Halting deportations is extremely important because, as we wait for progress on legislation, thousands of people are being deported, and this is simply unacceptable,” President of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights Citlalli Alvarez (COL ’16) said.
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama’s administration has deported 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, the highest during any presidential term. Every day, approximately 30,000 individuals are held in the U.S. immigration detention system, the largest in the world.
Associate Vice President for Federal Government Relations Scott Fleming (SFS ’72) noted that the displeasure leveled at the White House for its stance on immigration has not fallen on deaf ears.
“The issue of deportations is very much on the White House’s mind,” Fleming said. “It has been raised to the White House by Hispanic leaders, who represent various Hispanic organizations, and also by members of the Congressional Hispanic caucus.”
While members of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights organized and attended a similar march in October to call on the House of Representatives to take action on immigration reform, according to Sophia Sepp (SFS ’14), a student coordinator for the Day Laborer Exchange at Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor, the march Saturday more directly targets the administration’s immigration policy.
“There is a lot of discontent because the platform that he ran on was that he was going to fix the immigration system, and now he is the most hawkish,” Sepp said. “A lot of the debate in Congress also is about national security and needing to enforce the laws that we have.”
The rally, which will take place at 2 p.m. in Lafayette Square, is sponsored by Trabajadores Unidos in partnership with the National Day Labor Organizing Network, the D.C. Immigration Coalition and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations. A national coalition of immigrant laborers, Trabajadores Unidos developed the slogan, “Not One More Deportation” for the rally.
According to NDLON Campaign Coordinator Salvador Sarmiento, supporters of the rally are asking Obama to use his executive authority to cease deportations. The NDLON assembled a list of six things that Obama could do without Congressional approval to reduce deportations including expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act and ending Operation Streamline in which groups migrants are sentenced before judges in border states such as Arizona in a matter of minutes.
“We’ve been very vocal about the very misguided programs that have created a deportation machine to basically round up immigrant workers,” Sarmiento said.
Last year, Obama took executive action to allow young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to apply for work permits and avoid deportation. However, the program, entitled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, does not alter the immigrants’ status or provide a path to citizenship. The protesters are calling for an expansion of the executive order to include adults with no criminal history and strong ties to the United States.
“Trying to navigate that balance between maintaining the legal things that you have set up in society and also acknowledging the human aspect is important,” Sepp said.
Protesters are also calling for Obama to end the Secure Communities program which disseminates informations about individuals’ immigration status when they are fingerprinted in a local prison, because, rather than upholding its original goal of deporting criminals, the program is currently used as a general deportation facilitation tool.
“I think this is an ongoing conversation,” Sarmiento said. “Immigrants have really put themselves out there, sometimes risking their livelihoods and their well-being, by telling their stories and by committing acts of civil disobedience to stop deportation.”
Sepp, who co-led an Alternative Spring Break Border Awareness trip to the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas this year, stressed the need for face-to-face interaction in bringing about reform and the power of conducting the march in the nation’s capital.
“You get this face-to-face interaction with people that really brings home the human dimension, which is something that was lost a lot in the national debate about immigration reform,” Sepp said. “Especially in D.C., we have a lot of social capital and the opportunities to bring more attention to the issue.”
According to Fleming, Georgetown is a strong proponent of immigration reform legislation and the Dream Act, which has the potential to affect students on campus.
“We are very much involved in the immigration debate more broadly,” Fleming said. “[University President John J. DeGioia] has weighed in on several occasions, some of them going back many years at this point, in support of comprehensive immigration reform and in support in particular of changes that relate to the Dream Act.”
Although comprehensive immigration reform is unlikely to pass in the House this year, Georgetown’s participation in the rally has increased student interest in taking a more active role in the conversation on immigration reform.
“We are happy to see that there is a lot of interest and support coming from Georgetown students and faculty,” Sarmiento said.
Alvarez echoed Sarmiento’s thoughts, emphasizing the prescient nature of Saturday’s march for Georgetown’s immigrant community.
“Our communities, our families cannot wait,” Alvarez said. “This issue may seem miles away on the Hilltop, but it directly affects the lives of immigrant Hoyas.”