More than 100 students gathered early Sept. 8 at the entrance of Dunwoody High School to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, by waving signs and flags.
“Si se puede!” they shouted in unison. “No ban, no wall!” they also shouted.
The enthusiastic rally, apparently organized by students, was held in the picnic area of the school and could be seen and heard as parents and students drove into the school’s front parking lot.
Members of the marching band drummed and played horns to cheers and chants. Principal Tom McFerrin helped direct traffic as cars entered the high school parking area. He then urged and ushered the students at the rally into the school at 8 a.m. for their first classes.
“It’s a peaceful gathering,” McFerrin said. “They just wanted to do a peaceful rally and have their voices heard. And they’re allowed to do that. They’re a good group of kids.”
McFerrin, who has been DHS’s principal since 2014 and was an assistant principal and teacher prior, said he could not recall such a sizable political protest at the school before.
Farah Ulfat, a junior at Dunwoody High School, held a sign that read, “I dream with the Dreamers” and helped lead the crowd in many chants.
“I’m out here because this is our generation,” she said. “In the future, we are going to dream, we’re going to build America, we’re going to make it better. If you send these children home, if you send them back, who is going to create … the future generation?
“It is us who is going to support the future,” Ulfat said. “If you get rid of us, there will be no one to take care of America. That is why I am here. To stand up for all these people.”
Ireti Adelke and Kayla Maney, both freshman, said America should welcome everyone.
“I think we are one,” Adelke said. “Everyone should be here on their own terms.”
A mother of DHS students who lives across the street from the school watched the students with a smile. She asked her name not be used.
“I support these kids, I think they are as American as my kids except on paper,” she said. “I’m just so impressed by how many students they have here. I think it’s a great thing.”
The students were protesting President Trump’s decision this week to rescind DACA and give Congress six months to come up with a replacement policy. DACA currently protects some 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from deportation. DACA beneficiaries, known as DREAMers, must have come to the U.S. before they were 16 and have lived in the country since June 15, 2007.
There are an estimated 24,000 DREAMers in Georgia, according to the Department of Homeland Security. DREAMers must be at least 15 to apply for DACA, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Nearly 80 percent of DACA beneficiaries are from Mexico. The countries that follow in DACA numbers are Guatemala, South Korea, El Salvador and the Phillipines.
Dunwoody High School has more than 1,600 students and its demographics are 52 percent white, 27 percent Latino, 15 percent black and 6 percent Asian, according to a DeKalb Schools spokesperson.
DeKalb Schools does not track DACA beneficiaries and does not require students to disclose their immigration status to attend.
How many DACA beneficiaries as students and employees that may be affected by rescinding DACA is not yet known, according to a statement from DeKalb Schools Supt. Stephen Green.
“It is wrong to eliminate an effective means of providing educational opportunities for children in the name of politics,” Green said. “The children that will be impacted by this decision do not deserve this result, and are being subjected to an environment where they must fear for their future instead of embracing it.”
The DHS rally follows another DACA rally held on Labor Day in Dunwoody.