Video by Nigel Shelly / Contributing Writer
Photos and story by Bailey Wilson / Contributing Writer
Murfreesboro Loves, a local unity organization, hosted the “DACA Dreamers Rally” on the Murfreesboro Public Square on Saturday.
The rally was held in support of the men and women that are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “Dreamers.” Those who attended demanded a “clean Dream Act” that will protect the rights of those who were brought to the United States as children.
DACA was introduced in 2012 by former President Barack Obama. The legislation shielded thousands of people, who were brought to America illegally as children, from deportation. Through the program, Dreamers can reside in the country, obtain a work permit, gain employee health insurance and apply for in-state tuition, grants and loans. There are currently around 800,000 Dreamers, between the ages of 16 to 35, in America.
To receive DACA benefits, one must be enrolled in high school, have received a high school diploma or have a GED and no serious criminal history.
“I wanted to show support for the people who come to our country to make a better life,” said Carol Haislip, a retired Rutherford County Schools educator who had students in her classes that were DACA recipients.
President Donald Trump ended the program in September of 2017. He has left the task of finding a replacement program to Congress. Dreamers are not in danger of being deported, but if their membership expires, their benefits expire with it.
While most Dreamers can get jobs, some employers will not accept Dreamers if their DACA cards are about to expire. Ava Reaves, a Murfreesboro resident who attended the rally, described a similar circumstance that happened to her friend.
“She’s been applying to jobs … but they won’t hire her because they said her DACA card is about up,” Reaves said when describing her friend from Venezuela. “They said there’s no point.”
High school seniors with expiring DACA cards have great difficulty applying to colleges, getting in-state tuition and getting accepted to certain colleges.
Arturo Solomon, an MTSU and Motlow State Community College dual enrollment student, is currently studying criminal justice. Under DACA, Solomon received acceptance into college, a driver’s license and a permit to work. He wants to join the Marine Corps, but since he is not a US citizen, he cannot enlist.
“I don’t have a piece of paper saying that I am a citizen,” Soloman said. “So, I’m not allowed to enlist in any branch.”
“DACA recipients and their families cannot wait any longer,” said Evelin Salgado, a Cambridge High School Spanish teacher. “These are our lives on the line. We demand a Dream Act that will not go against our communities and will not go against our families … There’s no need for a wall. There’s no need for more ICE agents going after our families.”
In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump explained the four pillars of his new immigration policy: a path to citizenship, a $25 billion trust for the wall on the Mexican border, ending visa lottery in place for a merit-based system and limiting family renewing to only spouses and children.
Solomon and Salgado were outraged when Trump ended DACA last September.
“His decision made everybody start speaking up and start mobilizing,” Solomon said. “We’re ready to fight.”
Dulce Castro, a speaker and chant leader at the event, encouraged the supporters to do their part in the fight by calling Congress and demanding a clean Dream Act, speaking up about the issue and registering to vote.
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