Clothed in orange and holding signs, roughly a dozen Missouri State University students kneeling at the base of the Strong Hall amphitheater Friday were joined by over one hundred onlookers to express their support for DACA.
The event was dubbed a walkout to protest President Donald Trump’s decision this week to end protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, also known as DREAMers. The program gives nearly 800,000 people protection since entering the country illegally as children.
The president has called on Congress to enact new protections for DREAMers within six months.
DACA recipient Cristina Munoz is a senior elementary education major; originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. She moved with her family to Lake of the Ozarks when she was four, and said she was “heartbroken” to hear Trump’s announcement.
“People don’t realize how much it actually affects us,” Munoz said. “So the turnout here was just amazing, because they don’t have to be here. They’re choosing to support us and they’re choosing to be the voice that, sometimes, we can’t have or are fearful (to) speak out.”
Speakers at the event included MSU’s President Clif Smart, MSU College Democrats President James Moore, Uniedo Nuestros Orígenes (UNO) President Melvi Cifuentes, NAACP Collegiate Chapter President Bree Moore, and Brandon McCoy, MSU’s Student Body president.
“I think this is an important event to bring awareness to this situation,” McCoy said. “This is something, as a public affairs institution, where this is a great opportunity for students to voice their opinion. That’s why I came out here. As a representative of a public affairs institution, I should do my part in encouraging students to make their voice heard.”
Yamil Ocampo is a DACA recipient and Missouri State senior studying general business. He told the crowd that coming from Mexico City, Mexico was difficult, but thanks to the support of his family he went on to college. Now Ocampo is uncertain about his future.
“And now that I have everything in line for my future, I could lose everything if they decide that DACA will be something that is not going to happen,” Ocampo said. “It’s something (where) my future could be lost. I love Springfield and I feel like Springfield is my home. And I could lose everything within the next six months or the next year.”
Ocampo said he wants to see Congress act now, because of how many DACA recipients there are and how their lives will be affected by this decision.
“We’re here to work with (Congress), we’re here to support their decisions to benefit the country,” he said. “Just like Donald Trump says he wants to ‘Make America Great Again,’ we want to help American be a great country. We’re here to contribute to our communities.”
Dean of Students Dr. Thomas Lane told KSMU after the event that there are “less than 10” DACA students currently attending MSU. He’s reached out to them to offer information on services, including MSU’s Counseling Center, free legal advice from the Bearisters program and community outlets for more information on immigration law.
Following Trump’s announcement, the Trump administration will stop approving new applications for legal status after Sept.5, but DACA recipients with permits that expire before March 5, 2018, may apply for a two-year renewal of their status, if they apply by October 5. With the university providing resources to DACA recipients, they may be informed of this renewal opportunity before the expiration date.
Lane said the university wants all students to feel “safe, feel like they’re heard” and put in a position to be academically successful.
President Smart encouraged participants at the walkout to contact their state representatives to share their opinion on the matter, and do so civilly. He said while Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt have spoken about DACA, Representative Billy Long has not. On Saturday afternoon, Springfield Indivisible says it’s planning demonstrations that ask all three members of congress for their support of The DREAM Act.