Protesters gathered on the UT campus to protest President Obama’s immigration policies during his speech today at the Civil Rights Summit. Some chained themselves to the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. on campus and many brandished signs deriding the president for strict deportation strategies in light of the event which highlights equal rights.
“We want them to recognize that the fight for civil rights is not over,” said student organizer Maria Reza. “Enough talk – we need action.”
Melissa Adams, a teacher at Ridgetop Elementary, brought her fourth grade class to today's march.
“I have students who are immigrants themselves and so I think that for them to see people fighting for their families and for themselves is inspiring.”
The protests started earlier this week, and intensified yesterday when four activists chained themselves to the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in the heart of the UT campus. Student and University Leadership Initiative member Emily Freeman spent the night at the foot of the statue.
“I’m a citizen. I don’t know what it's like to have the fear of losing a parent, but I grew up in Houston, Texas in a large immigrant high school — like six out 12 girls were undocumented," she said. "So just seeing what my friends had to go through, I can’t imagine going through that.”
Today, around 200 people of diverse backgrounds ceremoniously unchained the group and marched from the UT tower to the LBJ Presidential Library where Obama was addressing the summit. Upon arrival at the library, three activists were arrested for crossing the barriers put in place by police.
The groups’ demands echo those made by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro on Tuesday during the opening panel of the summit.
“I’m not comfortable with the number of deportations,” said Castro. “My hope is that … the president will find ways that are within his power, that are constitutional, to ease the level of deportations.”
Last year, a package of immigration reforms was passed by the Senate, but was met with partisan gridlock in the House.
Those at the protest are calling the president to ease the influx of deportations through executive orders. Last month, the National Council of La Raza called the president the “deporter-in-chief.” Members of the group later met with the President after the White House announced that it would review its deportation practices.
Today, Obama's remarks did address immigration, albeit indirectly.
The president praised LBJ's passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, saying that legislation – along with the Fair Housing Act and the creation of Medicare – addressed issues that still impact the country to this day.