Students gather a second time in candlelight vigil to support DACA
On Feb. 18, Lee students gathered to stand in opposition of deferring DREAMers after President Trump's mandate last year to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In September 2017, President Trump announced his plan to rid of DACA in the following months.
This program, created under the Obama administration in 2012, is dedicated to granting protection to hundreds of thousands of kids, who were brought to the U.S. undocumented, protection from deportation. President Trump announced March 5 as the deadline for this program to begin its phase-out.
According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, as of Sept. 4, 2017, 689,800 people are currently under DACA. These recipients, coined as DREAMers, said they have found themselves scrambling for hope, pushing for the program to stay in order for those under the program to remain safely in this country. As a response, people across the country have stood in solidarity towards DACA, hosting thousands of events to bring communities together.
On Feb. 18, the Lee University Restorative Justice Council, alongside the Student Leadership Council, hosted an event for the local community to do just that. The candlelight vigil, located in the Lee University Amphitheater, brought over 80 people together to show their support for DACA and to pray together about the decision to be made on March 5.
Associate professor of intercultural studies Dr. Rolando Cuellar said immigration is a larger human issue for him, as not only an immigrant from Peru himself but also previously a pastor of a church whose congregation was majority immigrants.
“When I came to teach at Lee in 2003, I encountered several students who were recipients of DACA. These students, as you know, do not have access to financial aid, and they face enormous challenges to pay for their education,” Cuellar said. “This is why we need to set aside time to pray for immigration. What are politics doing for our families and our churches?"
Today, he said he sees the struggles student recipients of DACA undergo, calling the church body to take action.
"It is urgent that we, as the body of Christ, join together in solidarity," Cuellar said. "If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, no one is ever to be considered an outsider.”
Students under DACA shared their personal story during the vigil service.
Recent Lee graduate with a degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Areli Solorzano said she struggles with fear of what her future will be if the U.S. changes immigration regulations and how the support of the local community has helped her overcome feeling alone in process.
“It feels like I’m starting over again... I have a community here to help me. I’m very grateful for God allowing me to come back to Cleveland,” Solorzano said. “It means so much for your support. You don’t know how much it means to us [DREAMers].”
Director of faculty development and distinguished professor of English Dr. Carolyn Dirksen said the possibility of Solorzano being taken out of the country as a result of DACA ending and the fears surrounding the unknown baffles her.
“Her heart is a part of this country. It’s the only place she’s ever known. The fact that the country would turn it’s back on her is unthinkable,” Dirksen said.
Senior theology student Alejandra Guajardo said her way of keeping hope through the unknown is through reading the Bible through the lens of immigration.
“The Bible is not silent to immigration, then why should we be silent to immigration? The Bible is not silent to loving the other, why should we be silent?” Guajardo said. “Those two things are not separated from each other. They go together.”
After it began to rain, the service was moved indoors. The service ended with communal prayer and a time of worship. As attendees left the service, Dirksen suggested to leave shining light, using candles as a symbol for hope for dreamers.
“The symbolism of that will be taking the light from this place and support and carrying it out across campus,” Dirksen said.
This past Monday, the Supreme Court put the March 5 tentative deadline on hold. By deciding to decline Trump’s request for the hearing by the appellate courts to be bypassed, the court has likely given DACA months to continue before the court reschedules.
To learn more about DACA, please visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.