DENVER — On September 5 texts from school-kids riddled the airwaves as word spread about the DACA Walk Out in support of Colorado’s “Dreamers” at the Auraria Campus. Parents were asked if their kids could march in solidarity with students and school families affected by the potential loss of their immigration status based on the Trump administrations decision to end Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Northwest Schools requested that students remain in the learning institutions and share their protests through discussion, making posters, wearing pins and joining after-school rallies on the streets. Susana Cordova, Deputy Superintendent of DPS schools, said, “We tried to encourage schools to take a two-pronged approach. Create activities on their own campus and give a safe space to talk about it and be involved. If kids chose to walk out our first priority was to make sure that they were safe. There were no threats to stopping kids from participating. If one or one hundred walked, they needed to be safe and had an the administration with them.”
In spite of official DPS guidance to stay in school, that didn’t stop 2,500 students who marched and gathered on the Auraria campus. Over 25 Denver public schools, charter schools and colleges from every quadrant of the city were represented in force.
The rally flyers distributed by co-lead organizer, Monica Acosta of Padres & Jovenes Unidos explained why “DACA is me. DACA is our relatives. DACA is our friends. DACA is our classmates. DACA is our co-workers. DACA is our communities. DACA is us! We will not hide or be silent while we and our families are hunted down. President Trump, you picked the wrong people to mess with.”
Viking Park was the gathering spot for students who marched from North High School, CEC, Strive Prep and Regis University and other northern suburbs like Thornton. Maria Canul, a high school student from Thornton, said, “I don’t know life in Mexico. This is my home, and they want to get me out of it. It’s heart breaking.”
The group of over 200 North Denver marchers was peaceful, yet resolved about their mission to stand for their rights. Michael Kiley, a North parent, and contender for the District 4 State House of Representatives joined the marchers. Parents, police, faculty, and clergy were present. Father Bob Keller from St. Dominic’s reflected, “Obama’s direction was right. The truth is most of these kids have never been in another city.” Even if the decision to do the right thing is in God’s hands, Keller said, “I don’t think Trump listens to God.”
As they marched downtown rallying cries permeated the streets in a call and response chant, “What do we want?” “JUSTICE,” “When do we want it?” “NOW.”
At Tivoli, the packed yard was the melting pot of faces we call America. Victor Galvan, co-lead organizer from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition organizers of the event, said, “You will see elected officials here today, but we didn’t let them speak today. We gave them a press conference a week ago. Today is for the youth. Today is for us. We acknowledge and love you for being present.”
Speaker after speaker including students, teachers, parents and activists in every color of the rainbow vowed to pass a Dream Act and work toward a permanent solution of this broken and flawed immigration system. “This community is not disposable.”
One speaker, Alexa Bailón, said emphatically, “I am so proud and happy to see you all here. I was brought to the U.S. when I was two months old. Denver is my home. When people in power try to say this is not my home that isn’t true. It is my home. We’ve lived here all our lives. There are 800,000 parents and children affected by this in the U.S. (17,000 in Colorado). We need to stay together, fight back and unite or they will take our rights away. We need the Dream Act because we don’t need a temporary decision. We aren’t here temporarily. We’re here permanently.”
Cristian Solano-Cordova, told his tale of walking across the border and through a drainage tunnel when he was a young boy. His mother gave the kids twinkly sneakers to see in the dark but realized the shoes were a dead-giveaway once they were out of the tunnel. Instead of hiding in the tall grass “My Mom stood up, so we didn’t need to go barefoot. She stood tall with a defiant pep in her step. She had the faith and resolve to come here for a better life for us.” In 2012 MSU passed a tuition act that allowed him to attend college. In 2015 he became the MSU Student Body President. Today he works with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “College education gave me the ability to fight for my rights. It wouldn’t have worked without the conviction of mi Mama. She is the real dreamer. The real meaning of courage is to take action in spite of fear. Don’t let fear paralyze. We’ve built a nationwide movement of people who have us. My dreams are alive as long as I have faith in myself and you. We must pass the 2017 Dream Act.” To Corey Gardner and Senator Mike Coffman he challenged, “Your vote is your weapon. Dare to dream with dreamers. We are here to stay.”
The day was filled with heartfelt energy that was summed up in closing, “It feels warm and awesome for all this love. There is nothing more American than being part of God’s work creating Americans.”
As the school day drew to a close North High School faculty and students came out of the building and lined Speer Boulevard with placards and protest signs. Afternoon commuters honked and waved their fists in support.
That evening DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg issued an official statement.
“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is shortsighted, heartless and harmful. Our DACA students and educators have tremendous capacity, potential and desire to contribute to our community. Many of them are students and graduates who have spent almost their entire lives in the Denver Public Schools, and we as a community have invested greatly in them and their potential. We know these young people, we welcome and respect them, and we will do all we can to right this wrong.”
To learn more or be involved, text 94502 and message “Dreamer.”