About 35 protesters, including some University of Maryland students, joined a demonstration Tuesday morning, when some blocked traffic at the ‘M’ circle to advocate for the preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Immigration advocates from Cosecha MD and students stood at each crosswalk around the ‘M’ circle shortly before 11 a.m., chanting and holding neon-colored signs, including “Fight White Supremacy” and “Honk for Immigration Justice.”
The group stopped traffic for almost 20 minutes, reaching well past its goal of 11 minutes to represent the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country who may face deportation.
The demonstration comes as immigration advocates are bracing for an expected decision from President Trump on the fate of the DACA program, which allows some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to work and study in two-year blocks.
“We have people who live under fear every fucking day,” screamed Nadia Salazar Sandi, a Cosecha member, from the center of the circle as frustrated drivers blared their car horns. “This is not fun for us either.”
The group began its movement at Frederick Douglass Square in Hornbake Plaza chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist-ass police,” and “No Trump, no fence, no wall, no Pence,” before treading over the rain-soaked sidewalks to the circle.
Madelyne Ventura, president of Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, said members of the group came to support Cosecha, bringing attention to the issue at the state’s flagship university.
“We want [the drivers] to feel the frustration the communities are currently feeling right now,” Ventura said. “People are kind of turning a blind eye and minding their own business when it comes to these controversial issues that are occurring right now. And so if we do this … you have to acknowledge the issue and take a stand.”
DACA has granted nearly 800,000 people temporary legal status since it was created in 2012. As of fall 2016, this university had 113 DACA students.
Wendi Rosales, a Cosecha member and university alumna, said the demonstration wasn’t only about DACA, but also about Temporary Protected Status and expanding rights for all immigrants.
D.C. officials have also signaled that TPS — a program that provides humanitarian relief by temporarily allowing citizens from other countries to stay in the U.S. — may also be terminated for certain countries.
A few minutes into the protest, University Police arrived to monitor the demonstration and divert campus traffic away from the circle.
Before police arrived, some students attempting to get to class flung criticism at the protesters. One man in the backseat of a black car yelled out of his window at one protester, “Why are you in the road? Get off the road,” before he turned toward the driver and said, “She’s retarded.”
Another girl on a moped looked visibly irritated as she told two demonstrators blocking her path that she had to get to class, while they held their signs overhead in silence.
“Everywhere we go there are people who are going to … subscribe the idea of white supremacy and think that a disruption of traffic is going to be more harmful than millions of people being deported,” Salazar Sandi said after the demonstration.
University Police spokeswoman Sgt. Rosanne Hoaas said no warnings were issued to the protesters and that everyone in the area was kept safe during the demonstration.
Chris Bangert-Drowns, who served as a police liaison for the group of protesters, said he joined the demonstration because he feels DACA students and their families deserve to stay in the country they have grown up in.
“That we’re actually engaging in a debate about whether or not these folks should be allowed to stay in this country is absurd to me,” said Bangert-Drowns, a senior economics major. “It’s absurd to say we should deport them back to their ‘home country.’ This is their home country.”
About 30 students from this university attended a similar demonstration outside the White House on Aug. 15, where Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous was among 27 peaceful protesters that police arrested.
Republican officials from 10 states imposed a Sept. 5 deadline for Trump to begin phasing out the program or face legal action.
“We’re on the long-term track regardless of what decision the administration makes,” said Antonio Castanon, a Cosecha member. “We’re going to be working to build solidarity, unity, [and] making sure that the community is inclusive.”