When the 10:30 a.m. bell rang at Lanier High School on Friday, senior Kimberly Reyes walked out of school to join more than 150 people who gathered at the Capitol for a “Youth Rally Against Hate.”
While the rally celebrated a court decision to halt Senate Bill 4, the controversial “sanctuary cities” ban, it also defended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives legal protection to young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents.
“It’s overwhelming to think that if DACA is eliminated, I may be the one who will have to take care of my younger siblings,” Reyes, 17, said. “So I’m marching for my immigrant family members who don’t have a voice for themselves.”
About 20 University of Texas students also walked out of class to join the rally organized by the Latino civic engagement group Jolt in collaboration with Youth Rise Texas and other student groups. The UT marchers reported that one of their students had been arrested on their way to the rally and was being held at the Travis County Jail. They left the rally shortly after arriving and marched to the jail.
Some high school students and their teachers participated in the rally, which also incorporated music, art and voter registration. Lehman High School teacher David Abdell brought a group of 25 students to the event. “So much of what we learn in history is political discourse,” he said. “Bringing the students gives them a better understanding of organizing and they could see it here firsthand.”
About eight San Antonio students from a “Youth Activists for Change” class at KIPP University Prep High School also participated. For most, it was their first experience at a rally.
“As a teenage female of color, it’s hard to feel as if I have a voice,” said 16-year-old Martina Barrera. “We’re the future. Our opinions should matter.”
President Donald Trump is expected to make a decision soon on the future of the DACA program. He faces a Tuesday deadline set by a group of Republican lawmakers from Texas and nine other states who have threatened to challenge the program in court if Trump doesn’t end it by then.
Trump made a campaign promise to end one of former President Barack Obama’s signature initiatives and also made a pledge after Inauguration Day to treat those immigrants with “great heart.”
In late June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and GOP officials from nine other states issued a letter threatening to sue the Trump administration unless it did away with DACA.
For Daniela Rojas, a member of the Jolt UT student chapter and an organizer with the group, the future seems uncertain. As a DACA status recipient since 2012, she said her family hasn’t figured out what would happen if the program is phased out.
“It’s a scary time,” she said.