By Robert Wood
Baltimore Watchdog Contributor
Every time Rosa Rodriguez goes out to a protest, nervousness kicks in.
Since she still considers herself new to activism, there is an uneasiness factor as well. There is the looming uncertainty of the behavior from counter protesters. But then, she says, she looks around her at the crowd and her fellow protesters and she realizes this is where she is supposed to be—out in front in the continuing march for her fellow DACA students.
Over the last year as Trump declared that “DACA is dead,” the fate of some 800,000 young people known as the “Dreamers” has hung in the balance, prompting an outpouring of support and protest. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was established by President Barack Obama in 2012 to shield people who had come to the U.S. as children, from deportation. After numerous attacks to eliminate the program, a federal judge ruled this week that protections for these students should stay in place.
Amidst the politicking and misunderstanding of the issue, Rodriguez, a third-year student at Irvine Valley College in Irvine, California, began to speak out and to be identified in October.
“My campus was looking for a student who was involved was a DACA recipient to form part of a delegation to go in front of Mimi Walters, our local representative for CA District 45,” Rodriguez said. “They wanted me to share my story and give a face to the whole DACA issue.”
Due to the wide-reaching impact of the Dreamers, activism for DACA students spread across campuses nationwide.
“Activists complete the tireless actions that sometimes feel pointless to other people,” said Towson University graduate Emely Rodriguez, who has been involved in the protest movement both on the university campus and in Washington. “Activists talk to their representatives, educate those around them, shed light onto myths/lies/inaccuracies, participate in nationwide movements/walk outs/marches, start social media campaigns, and actively seek these opportunities to defend immigrants and DACA members.”
Many Dreamers have feared they could be deported if identified. Rosa Rodriguez, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico due to financial hardships, has been in the country for 18 years. Still her family worried about the consequences of her actions.
“Growing up, I knew I was undocumented and my parents always warned me to stay out of trouble,” Rodriguez said. “They didn’t want me to expose myself and get placed in deportation.
“When I told my parents, they weren’t happy about it but they were supportive,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to do it because I knew this was a battle for my rights and I didn’t want to stand in the sidelines.”
For the past five months, Rodriguez has worked with the California Dream Network, which is the largest organization that works with undocumented students in California. The group organizes information booths, participates in protest and rallies, and reaches out to the community with updates on the latest DACA news.
Other groups that have been engaged in activism include United We Dream (which is a national organization that focuses on immigrant youths), Latin American Youth Center (an organization that works with youths and families in Washington, DC, and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland), and others.
At Towson University, a club called TU Dreamers has brought awareness of DACA and immigration to campus students.
“Last semester we created a Go Fund Me to raise money in order to help Towson students renew their DACA permits,” former Towson Student Government Association Senator Fatima Beri said.
The Go Fund Me was created to help take some of the financial burden off Towson students.
“The cost of renewing one’s DACA permit is $495,” Beri said. “For some college students, it was not feasible to pay $495 in the spam of a month in addition to paying school fees, lawyer fees, rent, groceries, etc.”
According to Rosa Rodriguez, work still needs to be done on the political level.
“The midterm elections are coming up so we will be working to make sure that those Republican district representatives that weren’t supporting a Dream Act are removed from their seats and get the people to vote for more representatives that are willing to help minorities,” Rodriguez said.
For those who oppose these students, Rosa Rodriguez offers her testimony.
“I am a child of this nation too. This is my home, the only home I know. I am one of you. I am just like you. I am not a criminal. My parents aren’t criminals. We all just wanted better opportunities. We are like your ancestors. They were dreamers too.”