Some students stayed after the bell rang Wednesday at Rancho High School in Las Vegas to call on American citizens to support immigrants.
The students had agreed among themselves to stay and rally — in support of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, in protest of President Donald Trump, but mostly, for their family and friends whose statuses under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will expire over the next two years.
Around 70 students, teachers and local advocates gathered Wednesday afternoon on the corner of North Bruce Street and East Searles Avenue outside the high school, sharing stories of their experiences with DACA. At Rancho, about three-quarters of the students identified as Latino last school year. In the 2015-16 school year, 3,256 students attended Rancho.
“Education, not deportation,” the crowd chanted. “Stand up, fight back.” The words have become commonplace in the fight to protect DACA after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced its phase-out last week.
For 17-year-old Betzy Torres, the fight is personal. She was filling out a DACA application when the program was rescinded, and will apply to the College of Southern Nevada instead of an out-of-state school, because it’s cheaper, and without DACA, she won’t be able to work to support herself.
Torres, who was brought to the United States 13 years ago, wants to study to become a clinical psychologist. Without a work permit, which the program had provided its participants, Torres will not be able to legally work in that field.
But for some students, the personal connection to DACA was looser. Catherine Soso, 16, said she has cousins living in the United States under DACA. Though she doesn’t know them personally, Soso said the rescinding of DACA hit home when her mother told her she had family that would be affected.
“Now that I found out family has it as well, I care about it more,” she said.
Advocates of DACA, a policy instituted by former President Barack Obama, aren’t asking for it back. Instead, they’re pushing for the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for DACA participants.
By rallying, Rancho High School social studies teacher Reuben D’Silva said the teens are participating in history. Before the bell rang to end the school day Wednesday, he asked a class of students to raise hands if they planned to attend the rally. About one-third did.
“And I told my students, 30 years from now, your kids are going to be studying the immigration reform movements in their textbooks, and you can say, ‘Hey, look, not only do I know about this, I also participated in this. I’m a part of history,’” D’Silva said.
He again asked who would go to the rally. The number of hands raised doubled.
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The gathering, led by the student club for so-called DREAMers, was one of several pro-DACA events in the valley since the announcement. To help educate DACA participants on their rights, UNLV will host an informational session and DACA renewal clinic at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Moot Court, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway.
On Sept. 30, the International Church of Las Vegas will host a “Dreamers Summit,” where DACA participants will have access to free legal advice.
Both the UNLV Immigration Clinic and City University of New York’s Citizenship Now office in Las Vegas are renewing DACA applications for free — until Oct. 5 at UNLV, and until Sept. 29 at Citizenship Now.
North Bruce Street and East Searles Avenue, LAsVegas, NV