SANTA FE – About 400 people rallied at Santa Fe Community College Tuesday — including students who walked out of classes with support from the college administration — to protest President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind a program which protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.
Many at the rally/walkout have been beneficiaries of former President Barrack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Hector Aveldano of New Mexico Dreamers in Action, which organized the rally, called Trump’s action “really messed up.”
“DACA has been a success, everybody knows DACA has been a success,” he said. Aveldano said the so-called dreamers are “here to stay” and need to rally together in the next six months and try to protect the program.
The Trump administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative alternative to DACA before the government stops renewing permits for people covered by the program.
Dulce Ramirez, a 16-year-old junior at Monte del Sol Charter School and a DACA beneficiary, said at the rally that her hope of attending college at Florida International University has been clouded by uncertainty about what happens next. She said she’s trying to remain positive but called the president’s decision “heartbreaking.”
“I’m holding on to that hope,” she said of being able to attend college in the U.S. despite her undocumented status. Ramirez, one of several high school and college students who spoke at the SFCC rally, came to Santa Fe from Guanajuato, Mexico more than 15 years ago.
Though Santa Fe Community College does not keep track of how many of its students are protected by DACA, President Randy Grissom said he estimates there are several hundred undocumented students attending classes at what the SFCC board has declared a “sanctuary campus” and who are eligible for in-state tuition.
Grissom issued a letter to the college’s staff and students early Tuesday inviting the “general community” to the rally.
“Santa Fe Community College is devoted to helping students improve their lives through accessible and affordable education,” he wrote. “Discrimination and inequality are anathema to this goal. Dreamers, we value and support you. You are part of what makes the college great. Santa Fe Community College stands with you.”
“This needs to be a welcoming country, not a deporting country,” he told the crowd later at the rally. City Councilor Renee Villarreal said Santa Fe will “continue fighting in any way we can” to keep DACA alive.
Mayor Javier Gonzales tweeted Tuesday, “Santa Fe will stand by and up for our Dreamers. It will be a heartless unpresidential act if #POTUS ends #DACA.”
There were other rallies around the state. NM Dream Team, an organization that advocates for the roughly 8,000 New Mexico youth who benefit from DACA, organized walkouts in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College and nine Duke City high schools, and a large rally kicked off at 4 p.m. at the Civic Plaza there.
Dianna I. Fernandez-Dominguez, a 26-year-old part-time student at SFCC, was another DACA-recipient speaker at the Santa Fe rally. “I’m concerned about after [Congress potentially] drop[s] DACA, whether they’ll go after us,” said after addressing the crowd in Spanish, .
She said DACA would affect more than just the people who would lose legal protections. The country would be minus individuals contributing to the economy, she said.
“The country benefits too,” she said “…There’s a lot of good people out here.”
About 70 Monte del Sol students attended the rally. School secretary Udell Calzadillas said he helped bring the students. Udell said there are many undocumented students at the school and it was important the show solidarity on the DACA issue.
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said she was only aware of two non-charter students walking out of classes, at Capital High School. Their absences would be handled like any others “as to what is allowed,” Garcia said. The students could get an excused absence with parental permission, she said.
Santa Fe city government’s advisory Immigration Committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday and discuss DACA, but the meeting was cancelled. Marcela Diaz, committee member and executive director of immigrant advocacy organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said most of the members were attending an Albuquerque vigil in protest of Trump’s decision. “It’s terrible, no doubt, but there’s time,” she said of the DACA situation. “And Congress needs to do it job.”
She said the largest impact won’t be on the youngest DACA beneficiaries but on those in the workforce, including many filling worker shortages in areas such as health care. “These are folks who are staying in their communities getting these jobs; when their DACA expires, if Congress doesn’t act or it’s not renewed… that will be an immediate loss of income,” said Diaz.