The University Leadership Initiative held a rally Wednesday in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the East Mall to show support for immigrants who have been deported.
Rally representatives said the ideals of the Civil Rights Summit do not align with current U.S. policy toward undocumented immigrants. Students involved in the rally held a number of signs, one of which said “we have a dream 2,” and chained themselves to the statue.
Rhetoric and writing sophomore Maria Reza said the group gathered because it believes the discussions at the summit need to better acknowledge the rights of undocumented immigrants.
“As we talk right now, families are being separated — deportations are happening,” Reza said
In 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security commonly known as ICE, announced the U.S. had deported a total of 409,849 immigrants — the largest number in the agency’s history.
Engineering sophomore Juan Belman, who said his father is at risk of deportation, said Austin needs to show support for families who have to deal with deportation.
“If we are a progressive community here in Austin, we need to show that,” Belman said. “We need to show Texas how to move forward.”
According to ICE, 2,614 people were deported from Travis County jails in 2012, which is roughly 19 per week, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman. ICE also reported that 85 percent of the non-criminal deportations in 2013 were individuals attempting to enter the U.S. unlawfully.
Approximately 40 people attended the rally, and the group led a series of chants, such as “we have nothing to lose but our chains,” and “it is our duty to fight for our freedom.” Members of the organization also read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech aloud. Three UTPD officers were also present.
The Travis County Democratic Party supported the University Leadership Initiative’s event and are in the process of passing a resolution opposing Travis County’s cooperation with the Secure Communities program, which is designed to identify undocumented immigrants in American jails that are subject to deportation.
The party’s communication director Joe Deshotel said his organization fully supports the families of deported immigrants.
“We are particularly concerned about those families that are being torn apart and the children of undocumented immigrants who live in fear of racial profiling and their parents’ deportation,” Deshotel said.