Miguel Montelongo wasn’t supposed to speak at the Clean Dream Act rally Thursday afternoon in front of Santa Fe South High School.
But when the emcee offered the bullhorn to anyone to speak, he accepted.
The senior had heard some Latino classmates around him joking about deportations.
He stumbled at first with what he wanted to say, clearly trying to collect his thoughts. The crowd of about 250-300 students quietly studied him.
But then emotion kicked in. His voice quavered, and then lifted into a shout for his conclusion.
“You are a part of my race! You are me! We are Hispanics and we are united!”
The crowd cheered and clapped, some yelling and hooting.
And that summed up the rally for a clean Dream Act bill that can become law instead of the executive action President Trump had swept away when he came into office.
A significant number of students at SFSHS were Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals –”DACA”- recipients under the Obama administration. The executive order had set out provisions for how those who were brought here as children could stay and work toward citizenship.
Even one of the young teachers and SFSHS was a DACA recipient and is in legal limbo.
She spoke at the first DACA rally at SFSHS in September.
Making a point
Jessica Vazquez, communications director for Dream Act – Oklahoma, and Serena Prammanasudh, programs director, worked with volunteer students at SFSHS to plan the walkout at 1 p.m.
“The purpose of this is to make a point, to push Senator James Lankford and Congress to introduce Dream Act legislation.”
Lankford introduced legislation called the “Succeed Act” shortly after the Trump administration abandoned the Obama era executive order saying it wasn’t the fault of young children and babies that their parents brought them here.
However, Dream Act – Oklahoma is not satisfied with the Succeed Act and wants Lankford to introduce a clean Dream Act.
And the students who were there made a point.
Dunia Dominguez, a junior at SFSHS, was the first student to speak to the rally.
She said she was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. Her parents brought her here when she was a child and she can’t remember living anywhere but the U.S.
“I didn’t know what being undocumented was until I was in middle school,” she said. “All these years I have considered the United States to be my home.”
Gonzalo Escobar told the rally that he had many dreams and plans for his life, but they won’t be possible unless there is a clean Dream Act passed through Congress.
“I came to the United States when I was 2 years old. This country is all I have ever known. It’s my home,” Escobar said.
He talked about how devastating it was when DACA was rescinded, but vowed to press on.
Escobar closed his speech with a word of hope and determination.
“I’m a student, a fighter. I’m an American and I stand in solidarity with all my fellow dreamers!”
About 10 teachers were present and supporting the rally. One spoke to the group.
Brenda Grant is in her 11th year teaching for the Santa Fe charter schools. She has been teaching he senior seminar at SFSHS for the past several years.
“We’ve been trying to sell our students on a dream of accomplishing much in their lives,” she told Free Press after her speech.
“These are the hardest-working kids I have ever seen,” she said. “They deserve more than this uncertainty.”
Chris Brewster is the Superintendent of Santa Fe Charter Schools and functions as the principal of SFSHS. He didn’t try to stop the rally. In fact, he allowed students to check out for the rally.
He talked to Free Press after the rally.
The event was an important expression of what they are trying to teach their students, Brewster said.
“We’re trying to raise an educated citizenry and some of the most important things we can teach these kids is the right of free speech and how to exercise that right in the most effective way for their voice to be heard.”
Brewster had taken video of the rally and texted it to Senator Lankford toward the end.
He showed us the message.
“Don’t forget our Dreamers. Peaceful walkout and rally at SFS to draw attention to those who are harmed by the lack of immigration reform and the repeal of DACA.”
Lankford texted right back, “I have not forgotten them.”
UPDATE – The original version of this story misquoted Jessica Vazquez about Senator Lankford and information about legislation.