News & Politics

DC High School Students Take Over Senate Office Building for DACA Protest

They want Congress to fix the program. Now.

Photograph by Stella, a student at Woodrow Wilson High School.

Students who walked out of nine DC public schools on Thursday have taken over the Hart Senate Office Building to protest the end an Obama-era program protecting some undocumented immigrants from deportation. The demonstration, organized by the pro-immigration group United We Dream, is aimed at pressuring members of Congress to provide a legislative fix to President Trump‘s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known better as DACA.

Demonstrator unfurled several banners in the building’s nine-story atrium, reading “Congress, we demand a clean Dream Act now.” (Beneficiaries of the DACA program, who were brought into the United States as minors before 2007, are often referred to as “Dreamers.”) Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA in September, with immigration enforcement against the program’s estimated 800,000 recipients scheduled to begin in March 2018.

While the students don’t appear to have caught the attention of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, they were noticed by a few Democratic senators, including Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Bill Nelson of Florida, who met with several demonstrators in the lobby.

From the Hart Building, the protest is expected to hit the House side of the US Capitol to call out House Speaker Paul Ryan, who, like McConnell has dithered on allowing his chamber to vote on a standalone bill restoring the DACA program’s benefits. Trump has indicated he is open to signing a bill including DACA protections if it also includes funding for a wall along the southern border, a reduction in the number of asylum claims granted, and a massive increase in the size of US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Along with DC, United We Dream is also staging student walkouts in New York, Texas, California, and seven other states.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.