On Monday evening, students sat in a classroom in Coor Hall eating pizza, drinking soda and writing letters to Arizona senators urging them to support the DREAM Act and take action to support DACA recipients.
Ryan Cloughley, a political science senior, organized the event. He isn’t a DACA recipient himself but he considers it a “moral obligation” to stand up for DACA students.
“I know a lot of people who are affected by DACA who are as American as apple pie – as you, as me, as anybody in this room,” Cloughley said. “They view this country as their home. It was very evident last Tuesday that there is an individual in the White House who does not view America as their home.”
Through an announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump announced his plan to “wind down” DACA over the next six months. Trump said Congress had six months to pass legislation that would protect the DACA students.
Letter writing is “one of the best forms of direct democracy,” he said. His plan was to gather all the letters and personally deliver them to McCain and Flake's offices.
“When you have a large stack of letters arrive at your office, you’re gonna wanna pay attention to what’s happening,” Cloughley said. “We want them to put our faces on this issue to show that students at this university are watching what they’re doing.”
Jamila Rahim, a W.P. Carey public service and public policy sophomore, had a different motivation. For her, it was personal.
“My parents came as immigrants and as a first-generation American here, it’s unfair to punish children that didn’t have a say,” Rahim said.
Rahim said she finds that writing letters is a more concrete action than posting on social media.
“They can get a clear voice from us, you know?” Rahim said. “Instead of social media tweets and stuff.”
The students worked quietly. At the front of the classroom, an electronic projection screen showed a sample letter. Students bent over their notebook paper, glancing up every few moments to copy words from the screen. It was quiet until Cloughley started playing David Bowie.
David Huff, a political science sophomore, laughed at the music choice but said it made him feel hopeful. His fellow students' activism makes him feel hopeful as well.
“I hope this event will help pressure Congress to save the program,” Huff said.
Huff said he’s seen activism like this make a difference before. In the summer, he watched as people called their senators and representatives about the GOP’s failed healthcare bill. He thinks that the bill would have passed if it hadn’t been for people stepping up to share their opinions.
“I do think writing letters to your representatives, calling, putting public pressure does mean a lot in the long run,” Huff said. “I hope we have a success like the healthcare success with the DACA program.”
Derrik Rochwalik, a recent ASU graduate and member of Maricopa County Young Republicans, agrees with the president’s choice to end DACA but also supports the DREAM Act.
“I think what the president did was a smart move in giving a 6-month time period for Congress to take an executive order and turn it into actual law,” Rochwalik said.
Rochwalik said many of his fellow young Republicans feel the same way.
“Many members of our generation understand the plight of children who weren’t a part of the decision-making to cross the border illegally,” Rochwalik said.