Outrage against DACA repeal takes the streets
and report from Chicago on a nationwide show of anger.
WHEN ATTORNEY General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would repeal DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), it caused the signature physiological response of the Trump era for many thousands of people: the sharp pain of outrage in your gut, followed by the question in your mind of where the demonstration is going to be.
Around the country, people turned anger into action at quickly organized protests, occupations and walkouts on September 5, hours after Sessions did Trump's dirty work in announcing the end of DACA following a six-month delay.
Chicago's protest drew some 1,500 people to Daley Plaza downtown for a rally called by some of the city's main immigrant rights organizations. When the size of the crowd grew beyond their expectations, organizers called for a march to the field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people gathered outside the White House even before Sessions made his announcement until the view of Lafayette Park was filled with signs reading "Here to stay" and other defiant slogans. After swelling to several thousand, the crowd took to the streets, marching to the headquarters of Sessions' Justice Department, and then the Trump International Hotel.
In New York City, Trump Tower was the target of a daytime rally that mushroomed to some 400 people. The crowd briefly blocked Fifth Avenue, and police arrested about 30 people for "disorderly conduct." A later rally at Foley Square drew more than 1,000 people.
In Denver, hundreds of students from several local schools walked out of classes to vent their outrage even as Sessions was speaking across the country in Washington. According to media reports, some of the students were DREAMers themselves, but most were friends and supporters who wanted to take a stand on behalf of those Trump wants to deport.
In San Francisco, several thousand people gathered in front of the Federal Building to protest. The crowd soon spilled into the street. "They then marched up Market Street to City Hall, waving handwritten signs and chanting bilingual chants," reported the San Jose Mercury News. "As twilight fell outside City Hall, speakers shared their stories of visa denials and 'la migra' in speeches from the back of a U-Haul truck."
THE CHICAGO protest highlighted the potential for defenders of immigrant rights to organize wide support on this issue--and also some of the questions we need to take up.
The protest was larger than organizers expected, bringing out a multiracial and mostly young crowd. Some demonstrators said this was one of the first mobilizations they had taken part in since Trump's inauguration.
One of the most popular chants during the march was "Protection for all!"--highlighting the fact that the spirit among marchers wasn't limited to saving DACA, but included the desire to stop all deportations.
During his speech, activist Luis Gomez explained the importance of recognizing how DACA could be used to divide the movement, by focusing the struggle on winning protections for only some of the undocumented who mainstream political leaders single out as "good" immigrants.
Gomez, a DREAMer himself, also emphasized that protests will have to put pressure on liberal politicians who pay lip service to defending immigrant rights.
In Chicago, for example, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials claim the city is a sanctuary for the undocumented--but ICE still operates here. "Chicago is not a welcoming city as long as people are taken from their homes and children," Gomez said.
This is exactly how DACA was won in the first place. Legislation to provide protections for undocumented youth, known as the DREAM Act, failed again and again over the past decades, including when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.
When the DREAM Act failed in Congress, Barack Obama said there was nothing he could do--until young activists, undocumented and not, began protesting and sitting in at offices for his re-election campaign, along with those of other Democrats. Obama then discovered that he could issue executive orders protecting undocumented youth and his administration implemented the DACA program.
Repealing DACA is cruel act that will lead to barbaric outcomes, with the lives of some 800,000 immigrants--whose average age is 26 and who came to the U.S. at the age of 6 on average--hanging in the balance.
But stopping DACA from being rescinded isn't enough--we want "protection for all."
The mainstream media, political leaders and even business executives will highlight the stories of DACA recipients who had no choice in coming to the U.S., with the implication that other immigrants should be dealt with differently.
We don't accept this--the call for "Protection for all" is an act of solidarity with all immigrants, regardless of their age and circumstances in crossing the border. Organizing for the continuation of DACA and while fighting in solidarity with of the all undocumented and future immigrants who haven't crossed the border yet is the only way to win--because an injury to one is and injury to all.