On Sept. 28, North Carolina residents gathered on W. 4th Street to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals bill. They shouted chants such as, “Juana, Minerva and Jose! They are here to stay” as they marched through downtown Winston-Salem.
The DACA program was created under the Obama administration to allow children who were illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents to remain in the country provided they have a job, are pursuing an education or serve in the military. The program was an unconstitutional overreach of Obama’s presidential power, therefore the program had to be reviewed by the new presidential administration. President Trump decided to end the program and give Congress six months to create an alternative to the program. The announcement of Trump’s decision has left the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients in a state of uncertainty, as they wait to find out if Congress will be able to produce a bill that will protect them from deportation. People across the nation have mobilized to defend and show solidarity with DACA recipients.
Winston-Salem showed its support of DACA recipients by hosting a march downtown last month. The march was facilitated by the Sanctuary City Coalition of Winston-Salem. It began with local advocates speaking about DACA and encouraging people to get involved in the effort to protect the recipients. John Cox, professor of international studies at UNC Charlotte, said, “we should be in solidarity here today with our brothers and sisters from Central America, from Mexico, from elsewhere in the world because of the knowledge that we’re all part of the same human family.”
Cox went on to say, “we should also know and…educate our friends and coworkers…that the disasters and calamities that are leading people to flee their countries…are often… the direct result of U.S. policy over the years, and so for example in the last 3, 4 or 5 years many of the migrants that come through Mexico or fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras…these are three countries destroyed by U.S. foreign policy, especially in the 70’s and 80’s…”.
One example of Cox’s statement is the U.S.’s aid in putting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández into power in 2014. During his campaign, Hernandez vowed to put “a soldier on every corner”, and he delivered by expanding militarization in the country. The measure was meant to combat police corruption, but the military quickly started committing human rights abuses of their own such as murdering civilians like José Guadalupe Ruelas for criticizing the government. Hondurans started migrating out of the country in fear of their lives, causing an increase in the U.S. immigrant population. While all of this was taking place, the U.S. continued to pour money into Hernández’s administration, turning a blind eye to the atrocities taking place under his rule.
Following the speeches, protesters were asked to come up and read the stories of immigrants who lost their lives after being deported. One story was of Juan Francisco Diaz. His story was reported as: “Diaz had been living in the U.S. for three years before being deported back to Choloma, Honduras in March 2015. Just four months later, he was found dead in an alleyway near his parents’ home. Rest in power, Juan Francisco Diaz”. Another story was of a man who migrated the U.S. to escape being murdered by a local gang. When faced with deportation, he explain his situation to U.S. authorities, but they deported him regardless. He was found dead in an alleyway not too long after his deportation.
After the stories were read, the protesters silently marched to the Forsyth County Detention Center, then back to 4th street. Along the way, onlookers watched with curiosity and expressed support for the protest. One woman declared, “This country was built on immigration” to show her support for immigrants being allowed to enter and stay in the U.S. As the protesters shouted “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcomed here!”, one woman responded by saying, “That’s the way I feel. I don’t like Donald Trump”.
The protest was meant to honor immigrants Minerva Garcia, Juana Ortega, and Rev. Jose Chicas who had to seek sanctuary in North Carolina churches to escape deportation. After three months in sanctuary, Garcia was able to leave on Oct. 2. No word has been given on the status of Ortega or Chicas since the protest, but the Sanctuary City Coalition of Winston-Salem has continued to hold demonstrations and rallies in solidarity with U.S. immigrants.