“I am a ‘Dreamer’ and a DACA recipient. I am going to Washington, DC to demand Congress pass a Clean Dream Act by December,” said Aristides Villatoro, as the bus rode past green, orange, and red-leafed trees on a chilly November morning from MC’s Rockville Campus toward Union Station. By a Clean Dream Act he meant a law that creates a pathway to citizenship without additional provisions, such as funding for a border wall, increase in funding for interior enforcement, increase in funding for detention centers, and mandatory E-Verify. His fellow marchers listened intently. “I have been here almost 11 years and I would feel lost if I got deported. We want something that isn’t temporary, that will lead us to a path toward citizenship and take us completely out of the shadows.”
President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy in September. Almost 800,000 DACA recipients will be at risk of deportation, 300 of whom are students at Montgomery College, if Congress does not pass the DREAM Act or similar legislation. Following President Trump’s decision, community leaders, including Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard, issued statements. Dr. Pollard stressed that hundreds of DACA students are studying and preparing themselves for the local workforce and improving their chances to contribute to the local economy. The Cato Institute reports that rescinding DACA will cost Maryland about $3 billion from 2018-2028, according to a statement released by the Montgomery County Council in September.
Villatoro, a criminal justice major, and about another 40 MC students met up with more than 2,000 people from all over the country on Capitol Hill to participate in the Walkout for a Clean Dream Act on November 9.
The protesters walked into the main hall of the Hart Senate Office Building and surrounded the black Alexander Calder sculpture. They fell silent, then raised their fists, peacefully notifying senators and their staff of their presence. After 10 minutes the protesters began chanting “Dream Act, now!” while lowering banners from the balconies. They then marched to the House office buildings and back to the Capitol.
Montgomery College student Ricardo Campos, a DACA recipient and area director of the group United We Dream, organized the event. He mobilized the College, eight more DC-area schools, and 11 other schools from the rest of the country. Speakers came from New York, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
“We are hoping we can put the conversation about the Clean Dream Act back on track,” said Campos. “The American people want a law that doesn’t use our stories as bargaining chips to harm our families, our parents, our communities.”
Leo Elias, student body president at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, was there, too, not only because his activism dates back to third grade, but also because he is determined to stand up with Dreamers like his best friend. His message to Congress:
“Time is running out for the Dreamers. It’s not their fault that they’re in this predicament. We are going to fight for them. Congress, get the job done, do what you were elected for.”
He also said he felt glad to have the support of Dr. Pollard, the MC community, the county, and state legislators. “They are immensely proud of us going to the Capitol and representing the undocumented students that we have at MC,” he said. Dr. Pollard addressed the walkout during her Town Hall Meeting that morning: “They are advocating peacefully and thoughtfully for the needs and interest of many of our students here at Montgomery College and our campus.”
Following the passing of the Maryland Dream Act in 2012, Montgomery College students under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) were deemed eligible for in-county tuition rates provided that the students satisfy MC’s residency criteria.
Organizers said they are planning to hold more events in the upcoming weeks and months.