College Park Speaks: Recognizing the Student Activists of the DACA/DAPA Rallies

Through the efforts and determination of the student organization PLUMAS (Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society), 40 University of Maryland community members participated in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Resident) rally in front of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. April 17.

The Supreme Court heard arguments for the U.S. vs. Texas case, concerning the constitutionality of DACA and DAPA. Thousands of people from across the nation gathered outside the building to unite and protest, conveying their concerns and showing the solidarity, presenting how many people are impacted by this decision.

Attention and discussion towards immigration reform has skyrocketed due to racist and problematic remarks by presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. The rhetoric surrounding it has worsened as well, explicitly revealing people’s opinions in regards to DACA and DAPA–which would only give temporary residence to those eligible, giving them an employment authorization card and protecting them from deportation.

Both of the policies are for two years but activists are pushing for three years, naming it DACA+ and DAPA+. Currently, recipients have to renew their ID every two years.

Students who took part in the rally shared their experiences with The Writer’s Bloc and expressed their desires for change and improvement for this university in concern to undocumented students and their families.

Regina Ledesma

Regina Ledesma
(Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Photographer)

Sophomore, economics major, double minor in Asian American studies and Black Women studies

Being at the University of Maryland College Park as an undocumented student, it’s not something that’s easy to do.

These DACA/DAPA rallies was a great way to hear people’s stories, speeches of how they struggle with being undocumented and how they see their own parents’ struggle. One of the speeches really stood out to us: this one girl talked about how her father couldn’t speak English, he was a Latinx man, and he’s working a low-paying job for these white people and because she knew English, she served as a translator. She asked the white man, “When is my dad going to get a paycheck?” and this was the response: “Honey, when he can speak English without an accent, and he can ask instead of you, that’s when he would get his paycheck.”

Imagine being this youth, feeling so vulnerable. The emotion really resonated with me–I have parents who were both educated in the Philippines, but they both have accents and they’re mocked by white folks every day because of it.

The energy was amazing–there was so many people who care about this issue so deeply, we were all working for a common goal and there was this confidence. One of my favorite bands, La Santa Cecilia, was there. The music was inspiring, there were other musicians that performed. I love music and this kind of way of communicating, that we’re all there for this cause, made it more powerful.

Something that I learned is the power of leadership and communication. Erica Puentes Martinez from PLUMAS really emulated that; she really brought us together in the bus, saying these chants over and over again. We walked into that rally chanting and chanting and everyone was like, “Who are these people? Wow!” You know, it is the power and ability to mobilize people, they would realize that we’re all fighting for the same thing, unity. I want to bring that to the University of Maryland, not just for API (Asian Pacific Islander) folks, but for as many marginalized communities that we can reach and just coalition building.

Undocumented API are here on this campus. We are here and we want space. We deserve to be here and we deserve to be and we need these policies to represent that we are here. As the president of AASU (Asian American Student Union), I am really going to push for policies here on campus, I know that it’s going to be take time, but I’m really looking forward to the next step and pressure President Loh’s administration to really prioritize undocumented students here on campus.

Corinne Paul

(Photo credit: Tatiana Pinto)
(Photo credit: Tatiana Pinto)

Senior, government and politics major

I was there in solidarity. I don’t think you need to be a recipient or know someone that has DACA to understand how important it is. If someone has been here for several years or has been brought here when they were a kid, and America is their home, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be here.

The rally was beautiful in that there was so many people there, different faces. Most of the rally was conducted in Spanish and English, but there was definitely more than just people from the Latino community, and I thought that was important. One of the speakers that impacted me the most was a woman who’s from the Caribbean, I think she was from Barbados, but it kind of reminded me–my family is Haitian–just to be reminded that it could impact anyone. Someone had a sign that said “Black Immigrant Lives Matter” and just to remember that these issues can affect any American.

Rachel Smith

(Photo credit: Alycia McDonough)
(Photo credit: Alycia McDonough)

Junior, who created her own major in immigration and ethnic studies

DACA/DAPA are policies that should be implemented, and it’s a political game that the GOP is playing basically to make sure that the policies don’t go through and that immigrants believe that they don’t belong here.

Fighting back is the reason I went. It’s really important to show out in things like that. In my spanish class, I’m in Latina/o Communities and Language Struggles, a lot of people asked what happened and how did it go, some of them didn’t know what rallies are or what demonstrations are and what happens at them. People are really curious, especially if they see it on the news.

Coalition building at the rally was very multi-generational, people were there for many different reasons. I think uniting these communities under issues that affect all is really important. I think that’s something that PLUMAS is working on and AASU, to unite under certain issues, like for undocumented students.

William Chavez

(Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Photographer)
(Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Photographer)

Senior, criminology and criminal justice major, minor in USLT (United States Latino/a Studies)

As students attending the University of Maryland, we are on this privilege space, many of the people who would benefit from DACA/DAPA and their extension often don’t have the same access to higher education that many of us are currently undergoing right now. So, as students with privilege in that kind of sense that we are here, we have used our agency and voice to show as much support as we can, especially if people who would benefit DACA/DAPA are often times our loved ones, our families, our friends, members of our community. We do whatever we can with the power that we have to show support, and also it’s important to bring that awareness to the University of Maryland campus which often times is unaware of the real struggles that undocumented communities go through on a daily basis.

The most impactful thing was when the moment when–so undocumented members from our community were, for the first time, inside of the United States Supreme Court. It was the first time undocumented people were inside that place. It was really powerful because we had organizers, had people waiting in line for days, just to stay in the spot for people who were flying in from out of state and were undocumented. Some of the people like Sophie Cruz, Jose Antonio Vargas, who are undocumented. The moment when the hearing was over, they were walking out of the Supreme Court and walking down the steps and they were all holding hands. I think it was 20 to 30 people, walking down and holding hands and raising their fists. Everyone at the rally started raising their hands together, and that was a really emotional moment, really, really powerful.

We have to be involved in those kinds of direct actions, that kind of rallying, those kinds of demonstrations in order to get a sense of what is actually at stake. Again, many of us are in places of privilege that will never have to live in that fear of being taken away from your home or being torn apart form your family. So we have to expose more students to these kinds of rallies so that people can feel the emotion behind what DACA/DAPA could mean for millions of families, and that’s what we need to bring to the UMD campus.

Bibiana Valdes

(Photo credit: Gillian Casey)
(Photo credit: Gillian Casey)

Junior, electrical engineering major

I am a DACA recipient and having extended DACA would benefit me, not only because it helps me with school being an in-state tuition student, but also considering that I will graduate within the next two years, having extended DACA would benefit me and would help me get a job in the industry of engineering.

I know that there’s a lot of students that are not up front with their immigration status, so there’s a lot of people who don’t know what they are going through and people don’t know if they’re paying in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition, if they are undocumented or qualify for DACA or if their parents are facing deportation orders or something like that. So having students go to rallies like such gives them an influence and makes them more aware of people around them because in the rally, you could see that it’s not just Latinos, we have people from Asia, from the Pacific, Africa, people from different places who benefit from this. A lot of my friends became aware of it and asked questions. Definitely, it opens people’s eyes.

The university says that some scholarships don’t require citizenship or residency status; however, with competitiveness and the risk for money and scholarships, being undocumented sets you back, even if you don’t think it does, it does. Definitely, there should be financial support. Even though there’s the Latino community and MICA, OMSE and all of those organizations, I believe there should be something more geared, more targeted toward helping undocumented students because it’s difficult not only financially but also emotionally especially like everything that’s going on right now with the elections it can be a little bit frustrating and people can feel targeted. Just having a support system and knowing that we are welcomed here.

Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

WritersBloc_Headshots_24Karla Casique is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at

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