FIU Students Walking Out Today to Demand DREAM Act and Amnesty for Immigrants

It turns out protesting in the streets for civil rights might actually accomplish a thing or two. Two days ago, progressive Democrats in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states cruised to victory in off-year elections after a full 12 months of anti-Trump, pro-equality demonstrations.

But equal-rights organizers aren't letting up after those wins. Today students at Florida International University will walk out of class and join a national coalition of people demanding that Congress pass a permanent version of the DREAM Act, which provides amnesty to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

President Barack Obama's executive order created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but Donald Trump ended that program with the stroke of his pen two months ago. Now thousands of children and young adults who grew up in the United States worry they might be deported to countries they haven't set foot in since they were infants. Activists with the immigrant-rights group United We Dream are calling on lawmakers to sign DACA or a more comprehensive DREAM Act into law.

"Without this legislation, there is no feasible way to obtain a legal status in the only country we call home," organizers at FIU write online. "We are not hiding in the shadows anymore, and we won't be used as bargaining chips to criminalize other immigrants and our own parents."

Dozens of students have signed up to walk out of class at 11:30 a.m. According to a news release, activists from other local organizations, including the pro-labor groups For Florida's Future and Students Working for Equal Rights, will join the students. Three DACA recipients, including Lorena Malavert, founder of the FIU DREAMers Club, are expected to speak.
Trump's decision to rescind DACA in September fulfilled one of his major campaign promises — and also upset even other anti-immigrant GOP members, who said punishing immigrant children for the decisions of their parents was too harsh. President Obama signed his version of DACA into law via executive order only after efforts to pass a congressional version of the bill died; as it stood, DACA prevented recipients from deportation, provided they were brought here before the age of 16, did not have criminal records, and reapplied for amnesty every two years.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 23,000 Miamians and 103,000 Floridians qualified for DACA amnesty when Trump ended the program.

A coalition of Democrats and centrist Republicans willing to pass a DACA overhaul does potentially exist. Even centrist Miami-area GOP Congressman Carlos Curbelo has said he's open to passing a permanent version of the program through the Legislature. In the weeks since Trump killed the plan, Curbelo has met with D.C. lawmakers, including the far-right Sen. Chuck Grassley, to discuss reviving DACA in some form.

But the folks at United We Dream — a civil rights group funded by a host of large foundations and small donors — refuse to wait much longer for a solution. Tomorrow is a national day of action to demand movement on DACA, and a group of "DREAMers" plans to march in Washington in tandem with the activists demonstrating nationwide.

"Students and faculty at Florida International University would also benefit from a Clean DREAM Act because they are surrounded by hundreds of DACA and TPS recipients, including their peers and loved ones," the protesters at FIU announced online. "FIU takes great pride in welcoming immigrants and opening the door of opportunity for everyone with a dream."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.