High School Students Stage Walkouts to Support DACA Program
High school students from across the nation walked out of schools Friday in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The walkout, which saw about 4,600 participants nationwide, was organized for young immigrants and allies to have their voices heard ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the program on Nov. 12, with demonstrations in the District of Columbia, Illinois, California, Oklahoma, and Arizona, as well. The Supreme Court is slated to decide the legality of the Trump administration's efforts to end the program, which has provided more than 700,000 undocumented young people who came to the United States before age 16 with relief from deportation and the chance to pursue education and work.
In 2017, President Trump attempted to end the DACA program and put a stop to new applications, although the new outline of the program said that existing recipients of DACA were able to keep their protection and would be able to renew. And individuals had to be age 15 or older in order to apply. Students who were too young at the time to apply are currently being barred from submitting new applications, which is one of the driving factors prompting high school students to take to the streets last week.
In Washington, D.C., protesters of all ages walked to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to express support for DACA. United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led group in the country, noted that there were about 725 students gathered at the Supreme Court.
"It was a mix of students who had DACA, a mix of students who didn't have DACA, and there are students who were American citizens," said Jose Muñoz, the national communications manager of United We Dream. Ana Cruz, a high school student from the District of Columbia who has a parent who is the beneficiary of temporary protected status, helped to organize the walkout among her fellow students and spoke to the crowd about her parents' past and her hopes for the future of immigration.
Ahead of the protest, principals in Washington had sent a district-written letter to their school communities expressing respect for students to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The missive notes, however, that the walkout is not a district-sanctioned event and will not be automatically counted as an excused absence. The choice to demonstrate is "a family decision," the letter states, and excused absences will go only to those students who submit a parent note within five days.
"Education isn't just about academics; it's about helping our students develop as entire people," the letter states, calling on parents to encourage their students to speak to teachers and administrators regarding these topics so they can engage their students in "constructive ways."
In Oklahoma City, where about half of the school population is of Hispanic background, about 500 students participated in the walkout. In keeping with a public pledge to support students' rights "to advocate for causes that are important to them," the Oklahoma City schools allowed students to be excused from their second-hour of instruction, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 am, to participate in the walkout. Students met in front of their schools and held signs and banners that read "home is here" among other things. Three city schools took part—Southeast High School, U.S. Grant High School, and Capitol Hill High School. Though the protests were adult-supervised, the district said that they were largely student-led.
Image: United We Dream members pose for a photo with DACA recipient and United We Dream California organizer Gabriela Cruz, far left, at a gathering Friday in Santa Cruz, California. (United We Dream)