Rallies and school walkouts are expected Thursday in as many as three dozen locations in a loosely coordinated effort to urge lawmakers to legalize hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
In Dallas, supporters will demonstrate outside the offices of Republican Sen. John Cornyn. School walkouts are also expected at some campuses.
“We’d like [Cornyn] to step up and co-sponsor a clean DREAM Act,” said Erik Burgos, current president of the immigration-focused North Texas Dream Team and a 29-year-old DACA recipient. But “at the end of day, there will have to be some type of compromise, whether the border wall … or something else” to get such legislation passed, he said.
United We Dream, the largest youth-led coalition of activists supporting legalization programs for unauthorized immigrants, is organizing rallies or demonstrations in cities which include Austin, Houston, El Paso and the Washington, D.C.-area.
“We are demanding a clean DREAM Act without mass deportations and border militarization!” reads a United We Dream flier from Austin.
Immigration activists have pushed for legislation since 2001 that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of immigrants brought in the U.S. illegally or who came on visas that have since expired. Several bills failed to pass muster with Congress, but in 2012 President Barack Obama allowed them protective status through an executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
There are about 800,000 people who have received DACA, which allow the immigrants to work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
But on Sept. 5, President Donald Trump announced he is phasing out DACA. Trump encouraged Congress to come up with a permanent fix within six months.
Activists have since pushed for a “clean DREAM Act,” without add-ons such as the border wall favored by Trump. Opponents have pushed back, saying any legalization program must be narrowly focused and must come with border barriers and an increase in law enforcement spending.
The fight comes as Trump has made good on many campaign promises for an immigration crackdown.
This past July, the DREAM Act was reintroduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, for certain young immigrants who came with their parents to the U.S.
Cornyn has said that a DACA fix isn’t likely before January or February.
In the past, he has given DACA recipients some encouragement by praising their “positive contributions.” He has added, “It’s important for us to achieve a long-term resolution.”
Burgos, the DACA recipient, is a Southern Methodist University graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. He came to the U.S. with his parents as a 2-year-old from Mexico.
It’s unclear whether there’ll be student walk-outs from high schools in the Dallas area, where there have been large demonstrations in the past, Burgos said.
Dallas-Fort Worth is significant turf in the DACA debate: It has the nation’s third-largest concentration of DACA beneficiaries after Los Angeles and New York, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
He said that reflects the work of North Texas immigration lawyers and the North Texas Dream Team who through the years held free DACA-application workshops. “All the pro bono attorneys who did so much work and have always really been there at our lowest point,” Burgos said. “They are real champions for our community.”