‘Rice Unites for DACA’ gathering planned for Monday night

GSA President Sydney Gibson, Rice President David Leebron and SA President Justin Onwenu appear in a video about the "Rice Unites for DACA" event.

(From left) GSA President Sydney Gibson, Rice President David Leebron and SA President Justin Onwenu appear in a video about the “Rice Unites for DACA” event.

Rice undergraduate and graduate students and faculty and staff members are welcome to attend “Rice Unites for DACA” Monday at 8 p.m. in Rice Memorial Center’s (RMC) Grand Hall.

This student-organized gathering is intended for the Rice community to show solidarity for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative that President Barack Obama introduced in 2012 so that undocumented students could legally live and work in the United States and pursue a college education without the threat of deportation. Last September President Donald Trump ended the program and gave Congress until March 5 to pass legislation that would secure protection for undocumented students. Two federal judges halted the termination of DACA, and the Supreme Court declined the Trump administration’s request to weigh in on these cases, so for the time being, DACA recipients can still apply to renew their status, but new applications are not being accepted.

“The state of limbo persists and the March 5 date has become very symbolic — those decisions still perpetuate the state of uncertainty,” said Brown College senior Santiago Avila, one of the organizers.

The gathering was originally planned for the Academic Quad but had to be moved indoors, due to rain in the forecast. Following a procession of all the residential colleges and the Graduate Student Association into the Grand Hall, the program will feature speeches by undergraduate and graduate students and musical performances by students. A member of the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice (HACER) will serve as moderator.

Brown College junior Taylor Morin, who is also involved in the planning, said they hope to share some personal stories of DACA recipients during the program.

President David Leebron will be out of town, but he has prepared a statement to be read at the gathering. He also recorded a video with Student Association (SA) President Justin Onwenu and Graduate Student Association (GSA) President Sydney Gibson to promote the event.

“We are here to express our strong support for our DACA faculty, students and staff who have contributed so much to the success of our university,” Leebron said in the video. The video concludes with Leebron saying, “Please join us in uniting as a community around this very important issue.” In a message to the Rice community in 2016, Leebron wrote, “We want to be clear that all of our students — whether citizens or not, whether born in the U.S. or not, whether recognized as immigrants or not — are a cherished part of our community, and we will always work to assure their ability to complete their studies and pursue their dreams.”

Lovett College senior Tessa Fries, who also helped organize the gathering, said advocacy groups like Mi Familia Vota will have tables in the RMC where students, faculty and staff can learn more about resources available to help them with DACA-related issues after the gathering, which is expected to last about 45 minutes.

Jose Aranda, associate professor of English and Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies and magister of Brown College, has been working with the student organizers and noted that in addition to Leebron, the event has the support of Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson and the Housing and Dining Department along with all the residential colleges, the GSA and the SA. “They all want to encourage students, faculty and staff to gather in solidarity for DACA, Dreamers and undocumented members and mixed-status families of the Rice community,” Aranda said.

Rice has a website that compiles information about DACA and resources on campus: daca.rice.edu.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.