Juniors rally to protect immigrants

Juniors flood D.C. to protest in favor of the DREAM Act to protect DACA recipients

Khadija Ahmed, Staff Writer

Hundreds of people flooding Washington D.C. shout, “What do we want?” “The DREAM Act!” Their hands pump into the air as they all crowd around the steps of the Cannon House Office Building.
This is what juniors Alvin Kim, Nahom Dagnachew, Richard Le, Victor Nguyen and Kaa-lok Yap have been doing for the past six months, since joining NAKASEC as of last summer.
The National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), which is an organization based in Los Angeles, California. Recently, they have opened a new branch in Virginia and have gained many youth volunteers.
“When we first joined NAKASEC, we never expected to do any of the actions that we were a part of up to this day. Within a matter of weeks, we were volunteering to help them gain petitions, protest, and go meet and talk to government leaders and other political figures,” Dagnachew said.
They have also taken part in several reform movements and met with various immigrants from around the country, advocating and discussing the DREAM Act in response to Trump’s rescinding DACA.
The proposed immigration deal would have brought a solution for recipients of DACA. Last September, Trump rescinded Barack Obama’s executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided undocumented immigrants that arrived at the age of 16 or younger with legal residency.
Donald Trump prides himself on his commitment to remove undocumented immigrants from America and prevents more from entering. On January 11, Donald Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?” referencing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries. He made this remark at a closed-door meeting with lawmakers while discussing a bipartisan immigration deal, which he eventually rejected.
Nearly 800,000 people benefited under the program, but now their futures hang in the balance as Trump phases out the DACA program over the next few months. However, he says that Congress has the time to legalize a fixed version.
According to the Center for American Progress, 122 DACA recipients are losing their protection every day. Congress does not have until March, when Trump’s six-month delay will end, to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant alien minors conditional residency and possibly permanent residency after meeting further qualifications.
During October and November, the five juniors asked their classmates to sign petitions that would voice their support for the DREAM Act.
From school, 233 petitions were signed, and 1000 got signed altogether by the NAKASEC organization. The petitions were sent to representatives of the constituents to show community support.
By the end of 2017, NAKASEC has worked with immigrant organizations such as United We Dream, Hana Center, CASA and Korean Research Center to use the leverage they have in Congress to attach the Dream Act to the continuing resolution.
The different immigrant organizations separated into groups to go to the offices of many Democratic senators, demanding that they fulfill their promise of delivering a Dream Act.
The protesters stood for hours within the office, drawing attention through social media and live streams.
“We spent seven hours in the office of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine chanting and sharing stories. It was my first sit-in but being surrounded by so many people who share the same ideals helped me gain the courage to stay and participate,” Dagnachew said.
After the sit-in, no word came from Senators Warner and Kaine. Soon after, a CR was voted on and passed without a DREAM Act included. Despite NAKASEC youth members’ disappointment, they still wish to keep on fighting to help improve the lives of millions of immigrants.
Anyone can show their support for the Dream Act by attending a rally, writing a letter to Congress, or calling his or her members of Congress and urging them to promote the Dream Act.