Belmont’s Gender Equality Movement hosted a meeting Tuesday morning about President Donald Trump’s DACA decision, where guest speakers challenged students to understand the weight of Trump’s decision and ally themselves with immigrants.
“We are asking for allies. We are asking for people who are safe and willing to put themselves on the line to protect these people,” said Nashville Community Defense campaign leader Cathy Carrillo.
DACA, a program instated during the Obama administration, shielded children of undocumented immigrants from deportation while they were actively working or enrolled in school. This status needed to be renewed every two years, but while under the program, they were not at risk for deportation.
But with the program potentially coming to an end, 800,000 recipients could face deportation — some as early as March.
DACA recipient and Workers’ Dignity advocate Rodrigo Robles spoke about his experiences with the program.
Robles, who has lived in the U.S. for most of his life, said the announcement was not surprising to him. But the repeal of DACA was still traumatic for many.
“We spent all our formative years here, we developed here, we built friendships here, we became students here,” said Robles. “I was able to graduate from Fisk University in Nashville because of DACA and because of my academic efforts. For a lot of people that are coming up now, that’s an opportunity that’s definitely going to be taken away.”
Robles also challenged the idea that DACA recipients should be treated like victims.
“We do go through our grieving stages, but we don’t feel helpless by it. If anything, a lot of us feel more empowered by it. And we enjoy conversations like this where I have people who actually listen to me and care about this and are here,” he said.
After Robles shared his story, Carrillo gave students some practical advice about how to help DACA students in the community. She encouraged them to remind DACA students of the upcoming deadlines for renewal, but she also challenged students to go beyond words and take action.
“We can’t just be saying, ‘yes I support you,’ with a Facebook post or stuff like that. Put your money where your mouth is. If you have $250 that you can put toward that DACA renewal application, do it. If you have $50 that you can put toward that DACA renewal application, do it. Put that power that you have as an ally behind that,” she said.
GEM President Kat Carlton said she wanted to have this meeting because it’s important for Belmont students to learn about DACA and know how to better support their peers.
“There’s students that go here that are DACA recipients, and so they could lose all of their funding for school,” said Carlton.
One student asked Carrillo what action students can take on Belmont’s campus.
“If you can pick one person to help and ask them how they can be supported, that is absolutely amazing for that one person,” Carrillo said. “We cannot save the world, but we can help those who are close to us, and we can help build their courage and help build the atmosphere so that they are strong enough to do it for someone else.”
Throughout the course of the meeting, the discussion returned repeatedly to one common theme: for most DACA recipients, the U.S. is home, and they do not want to leave.
“What’s the point of telling someone that, just because they don’t have a birth certificate that says United States of America, they’re not from here? We’ve been taught our whole lives that home is where the heart is, and if this is where the heart is, it’s home,” said Carrillo.