HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) - Students from at least six high schools and two universities in Miami-Dade County staged walkouts, Wednesday, to demand their communities be declared “sanctuary cities.”
Students from Homestead High School, South Dade Senior High School, Miami Dade College and Florida International University all took part in the protests, asking that the city of Homestead and Miami-Dade County defy the immigration policies of President-elect Donald Trump. Wednesday’s protests come a week after president-elect Donald Trump vowed to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes.
Around 11 a.m., students from Homestead High School and South Dade Sr. High School left their classes and headed to the front of their campuses to begin their protest.
At South Dade, many students were seen running out of class and jumping over a fence, running across the entrance of the school and onto the sidewalk. Some ignored threats of suspension to protest Trump’s policy.
“Do I look like a rapist or a killer or a gang member?” Rodolfo Paz asked. “No, I don’t. I’m a student from South Dade Senior High trying to be a good student to have a better life in the future.”
Students said they were worried about their undocumented loved ones.
“I wanna fight for her now. This, I’m doing it for my mom,” Jose Garcia said. “We have a dream too: to be here and to be free and to be able to walk down the street and not be scared that immigration is gonna come or take me or mom, dad or family away.”
“We all have to unify to call this a sanctuary city, sanctuary schools,” said Diego, a South Dade student. “No law enforcement will come out and do racial tagging or discriminate our students based on their status, based on color, based on religion.”
At Homestead High School, dozens of students walked out of class in unison. While some students were guided back inside by school faculty members, many students were able to continue walking all the way to Homestead City Hall.
By noon, a large crowd of students from these two high schools, as well as Miami Dade College, had gathered in front of city hall. They demanded that Homestead be a “sanctuary city” for undocumented families.
Recently re-elected Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county would not be declared a sanctuary city.
“We follow federal law, and so Miami-Dade County is not a sanctuary community or city. We now comply with federal law, and we feel that we will continue to comply with federal law regardless of which president is in power.”
These students, the majority of whom are of Hispanic descent, have concerns and fears regarding the Trump administration’s proposed policy on immigration.
At both schools, students shouted in unison and held signs. Many signs read, “Sanctuary City,” “#SanctuaryCity #SanctuaryCampus” and “Love Trumps Hate,” among other slogans.
The #SanctuaryCampus movement that is taking social media by storm and calls for university and high schools to develop a protocol for their campuses that will allow them to serve as sanctuaries against deportation, discrimination, violence and racism.
At around 3 p.m., the FIU #SanctuaryCampus walkout was held at the Modesto A. Maidique campus. By 4 p.m., more than 150 students were gathered on the Graham Center lawn, holding signs and reciting chants. According to many students, they are concerned about the undocumented students who attend the university.
I’m not ashamed to say I have dependency on my parents in terms of money,” Roman Viveroz, a junior, said. “I’m not ashamed to say I have dependency in terms of love and support. I would lose all of that.”
Also in attendance at the FIU protest were Trump supporters who agree with Trump’s immigration policy.
“Immigrants like myself, we feel like, hey, look my mom and my dad we came in the right way,” Gabriel Sirven said. “We followed the law, and we also wanna be protected by some of these illegal aliens that are raping, that are committing crimes, so that’s not to say they’re all doing it, but there is a huge problem.”
While many students participated in Wednesday’s walkout, some students stayed behind. These students stayed in class for reasons ranging from not knowing about the walkout to simply wanting to focus on their schoolwork.
The walkouts were planned by the immigrant rights activist group Movimiento Cosecha, which reached out to students at over 130 campuses across the nation.
However, Tuesday afternoon, Miami-Dade County Public Schools released a statement explaining that the activist group had not requested permission from MDCPS to conduct the walkouts.
“A relatively small number of Miami-Dade students left school today to participate in a march to Homestead City Hall that was organized by an outside immigration advocacy group,” read the statement. “Student freedom of expression is respected throughout the school district, but it must be done in a manner that does not disrupt the educational environment.”
M-DCPS also noted the group also never requested assistance to make sure the students were safe.
“Miami-Dade Schools Police and local police, however, provided a major presence in the area to ensure the safety of those students who left campus,” continued the statement.
Students invited to participate in the walkouts included those attending the following local schools:
- Homestead Senior High School
- South Dade Senior High School
- Keys Gate Charter School
- Miami Dade College
- Florida International University
- Mavericks Academy
- Miami Community Charter School
- MAST Academy
According to Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, spokesperson for Miami Dade county Public schools, robocalls were sent out to parents advising them that this was not a school-sanctioned walkout.
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