Undocumented youth and allies rallied for immigrant rights.
Nearly 50 people gathered in Old City, at 6th and Market Streets, yesterday, Oct. 20, to protest against failed efforts, at both the federal and state levels, to make passage of the DREAM Act a priority to politicians.
Organized by DREAMActivist PA, undocumented youth declared themselves as such in an effort to raise awareness about the issue, and to put human faces to the issue.
In addition to rallying for the DREAM, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, Act, the protestors called on President Barack Obama to enforce policies to stop the deportation of undocumented families.
Professors from Temple and the University of Pennsylvania, religious leaders and State Rep. Tony Payton (D-Phila.), who introduced the Pennsylvania DREAM Act.
“A lot of my colleagues are wasting time trying to further demonize the immigrant population,” Payton said. “They graduated from high school here, they grew up here, they should pay in-state tuition. I think that people just have to get over their ignorance.”
Brightly colored signs displayed by the crowd read: “Don’t Hate, Educate,” “Obama Take Action! End Deportations” and “1 Million + Deportations, Obama = Deporter In Chief.”
Armed with only a megaphone, Fernanda Marroquin, an organizer of the event, lead the group’s chant of “Out of the shadows and into the streets,” as it marched to the Philadelphia Immigration Court, at 9th and Market streets.
Marroquin said that most undocumented people do consider Pennsylvania to be their home. Many have never known a life anywhere else, she said.
Brandon Rey Ramirez, a junior political science major and Temple Student Government deputy chief of staff, attended the rally.
The DREAM Act is less of an immigration bill and more of an education bill, Ramirez said.
“If you had a better policy, or a more fair education system, you wouldn’t have this problem,” Ramirez said.
Elizabeth Pride, a senior anthropology major, said she attended the rally to support local undocumented youth.
“[Undocumented people] deserve equal treatment, no human being is illegal,” Pride said, criticizing the “illegal alien” term used to describe undocumented people.
Undocumented students took turns addressing the group and telling their personal stories of growing up in America without a legal status.
“I am undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic,” each said while making their speech.
Caroline Ezzo, Temple for DREAM president, said this was the first time for a lot of undocumented youth to declare their status.
“I am so proud of all of them. Anyone who hears their stories has to be touched,” Ezzo said.
Joseph Schwartz, a political science professor, has advised Temple for a DREAM since its formation last year.
Schwartz spoke in front of the court and related the rally’s mission to that of the protestors at Occupy Philadelphia.
After pointing to the creation of NAFTA in 1994 as a major hurdle to Mexican corn farmers, he concluded that politicians need to finally pay attention to the Hispanic community.
“It’s of the Obama Administration’s best interest to support this cause – he needs the Hispanic vote,” said Schwartz after mentioning the president’s low approval ratings.
Schwartz predicted that the issue of the DREAM Act’s passage will see an upsurge in activity as the undocumented children that it affects come to college age.
“I wish that there were more students and faculty from Temple here, but also more people from Occupy Philadelphia, because the struggle for immigrant rights is the struggle for the rights of all working people, all children and all people who contribute to American society,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said he believed Temple administrators, who have not yet addressed the issue publicly, will also have to take a stance on the topic in the coming years.
Haley Kmetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.