Students march to demand protection for undocumented immigrants
Dozens of high school and college students in Homestead walked out of classes on Wednesday in a protest demanding that Homestead become a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
Around 11 a.m., the students — numbering nearly 100 from area high schools and the Miami Dade College Homestead campus — walked along roads holding signs bearing messages like “#Sanctuary City” and “#Here to Stay!” Others drove to join in the latest in a string of nationwide protests, many by students, held in the wake of Donald Trump winning the presidential election.
The students gathered in a group in front of City Hall, chanting “Up, up with education! Down, down with deportation!” and called on elected leaders to join cities like New York and Chicago that have directed local law enforcement not to collaborate with federal agencies in deporting undocumented immigrants. The students also called on school officials to declare their campuses sanctuary campuses, protecting undocumented students from deportation and discrimination.
“We need to feel safe, we need to be protected,” said Diego Ramirez, 20, a student at Miami Dade College. “Under a Trump presidency there is a lot of risk. All these other cities are protecting their people, why can’t ours?”
Many of the protesters were the children of immigrants and said they were afraid their parents would be deported once Trump takes office. More than a third of Homestead’s residents were born in another country, according to census data, and many of the city’s residents are immigrants from Mexico and Central America who work on farms harvesting vegetables, fruits and flowers.
Angelica Quiroz, 18, said she was at the protest to support her mother, who is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. “We are just here to say that there are immigrants here and other people who deserve to have their rights protected,” she said. “We’re not here against Trump. We want Trump to understand us.”
Homestead Mayor Jeffrey Porter told the Miami Herald that he would be willing to discuss the students’ demands at a future council meeting. “It was a very peaceful protest; they did a fantastic job at getting the issue raised,” Porter said. “But I don’t know if it will make a difference, making our city a sanctuary city. ‘Sanctuary city’ doesn’t mean they at the federal government can’t come in and deport and do whatever it wants to do, from what I understand.”
Some students had come to support their classmates and to protest what they consider racist and xenophobic rhetoric from the president-elect. “When the minorities, the people of color, come together, we can be powerful,” said Javon Francher, 16, a sophomore at Homestead High.
Administrators at one school, South Dade Senior High, attempted to keep students from walking out to join the protest by closing the gates and threatening to suspend participants. On a message broadcast over the school’s intercom, administrators said that the protest was not school sanctioned and that parents would need to pick up their children if they wanted to leave. But eight students hoisted themselves over the fence anyway and joined a few adult supporters and members of an immigrant rights activist group called Cosecha, who were waiting across the street.
Jose Ramirez, 15, one of the students who hopped the fence, said he was not worried about being punished by the school. Ramirez was worried about what would happen to his mother and father, a Peruvian and Honduran immigrant, under the president-elect’s administration.
“He wants to kick out everyone,” Ramirez said.
At Homestead High, five miles farther south, roughly 60 students walked out during lunch, according to protesters. They said school administrators had initially tried to stop them, but changed their minds and let the students leave. On their way to City Hall, they met up with high schoolers who had walked out of nearby Keys Gate Charter School.
Trump has promised to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding once he takes office. Miami-Dade County is not a sanctuary city, according to Mayor Carlos Gimenez, although the county does reject some federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants wanted for non-criminal immigration violations.
Protesters have taken to the streets in Miami and across the country to protest the Republican president-elect, whose campaign was built on promises of mass deportations and a plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. On Nov. 11, thousands of protesters in Miami blocked traffic on the MacArthur Causeway and Interstate 95. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities have also seen large-scale anti-Trump protests.
Kyra Gurney: 305-376-3205, @KyraGurney