United, Wake Forest dreams

“No justice, no peace.”

These words, among others, were chanted by Wake Forest students participating in a national day of action for United We Dream. United We Dream is an advocacy group led by immigrant youth that coordinated a national walkout on Nov. 9 for a “clean” DREAM Act.

A “clean” bill would have no strings attached. For United We Dream, the ideal would be that Congress passes the DREAM Act of 2017. This bill would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented youth, particularly students. It would provide them protections that were threatened by Trump’s decision to begin rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action by the Obama administration. DACA protected undocumented youth who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, enabling them to pursue a high school or college education or serve in the military without fearing deportation. Recipients of DACA were granted the freedom to study, work and acquire a driver’s license in the U.S., with the chance to renew their status every two years.

For undocumented students, or  “DREAMers,” the DREAM Act should not include inhumane provisions stemming from a compromise.

These would include decisions to escalate deportations to or build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The walkout began around noon in front of Wait Chapel. Students held a variety of posters they made at a table nearby. Some of the posters included the hashtag #Deacs4DACA.

The participants believed in the urgency of the moment, with chants such as, “What do we want? A clean DREAM Act! When do we want it? Now!”

Many of the students were affiliated with UndocuDeacs, a group affiliated with the Social Justice Incubator of the Pro Humanitate Institute. Undocumented students stood with allies to make their voices heard.

There were five photographers at the event, along with a lone counter-protester who held a sign reading, “No Amnesty.”

Multiple students spoke to the group, giving voices to how they felt about the current political situation.

Junior Zach Bynum began with an explanation of what a “clean” DREAM Act would mean, imploring students to call their representatives and senators to make their voices heard.

Bynum also spoke of the arbitrariness of current immigration law.

Sophomore Maria Cortez-Perez spoke about her perspective as an undocumented student. Because her DACA status will expire in a year, she said that she will once again be subject to “being a second-class citizen.” She has lived and been raised in the U.S. and has not returned to Mexico since she was two years old. Cortez-Perez also told the crowd about how she fears for her mother, who could be deported if she gets pulled over by an unscrupulous police officer.

She said that if Congress fails to pass a “clean” DREAM Act, her hopes and dreams in the U.S. will be thwarted.

Senior Cameron Steitz spoke of how students should sign letters to North Carolina legislators, Sens. Burr and Tillis, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, at the same table where posters were drawn. He told the crowd to remember that this walkout is something that Wake Forest’s student code of conduct revisions are “trying to silence.”

Sophomore Alexander Holt pointed to the banners on Hearn Plaza that said, “Wake Will Lead,” advertising the University’s new fundraising campaign. He said that if Wake Forest will be a leader, it must publicly stand for its undocumented students.

Junior Char Van Schenck spoke next, imploring students to rethink the narrative that immigrants “make America great,” or that the U.S. is “already great.” They reminded the crowd that the U.S.’s starkly violent and oppressive history, built on stolen indigenous land and the enslavement of Africans, means that the nation has not been great and never will be. Van Schenck noted, though, that this violence is not inevitable, and that through unity, it is possible to achieve fundamental change.

Sophomore Mellie Mesfin followed with a reminder to student activists that they should not let any counter-protester distract or divide.

Students connected the cornerstone of the walkout — a “clean” DREAM Act — to what the university should do in support. Senior Ja’el Knott presented three demands to the Administration: first, that President Hatch come out with a public statement of support for a “clean” DREAM Act; second, that the university takes concrete steps to provide resources to undocumented students; and third, that the university creates a section of its website for undocumented students to show support and help.