Given the criticism of immigrants these last few years, one might be surprised by the message Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students are delivering to our city. But the “home is here” message DACA students preached during Friday’s OKCPS walkouts exemplifies the best of Oklahoma and our nation. In fact, DACA students said the word “Oklahoma” over and over, as they committed themselves to make their community and state better.
On Friday, Nov. 8, hundreds of students from Capitol Hill High School, U.S. Grant High School and Southeast High School peacefully participated in a nationwide walkout in support of undocumented immigrants and youth — called “dreamers” — authorized to stay in America under DACA. I attended the walkout at Capitol Hill.
A dreamer who immigrated to America in 2003 set the tone of the event while students held signs proclaiming, “home is here.” And here, they committed to “unity,” “freedom,” “love,” “respect,” “family,” “community,” and to “thrive.” The most repeated word was “Oklahoma.”
As the name of their families’ chosen home was repeated over and over, I almost expected to hear the lyrics of our state song, “Brand new state, gonna treat you great….”
Seriously, the multiracial crowd reminded me of the best of the Oklahoma of my childhood. Like the earlier immigrants to Oklahoma — and the generation who survived the Great Depression, won World War II and committed to a better life for Baby Boomers like me — dreamers seek to do more than just survive. Their goal is to thrive, and they are dedicated to bringing our community up with them.
DACA walkout: ‘No human is illegal’
During Friday’s DACA walkout, student leaders offered a range of civics lessons, first being reminded of the Nov. 12 U.S. Supreme Court hearing which will rule on their immigration status. Speakers called for respecting persons of all races, nationalities, genders and sexual preferences. I was especially impressed by the exhortation to listen respectfully to people who they disagree with.
A closing speaker built on the theme, “No human is illegal.” Her mother, father, brothers and sisters are not “illegal.”
“Our community is not illegal,” she said. “Oklahoma is not illegal.”
The student leaders urged their classmates to support those who were reluctant to take such an open stand. Then, they challenged everyone to return to class with an “engaged” mentality, to work and learn in a dedicated manner.
I believe our community should also respect the way OKCPS handled to walkout. The district allowed the thoughtful discourse, and it issued a statement referencing the right for students to express themselves:
OKCPS respects and supports the rights of our students to advocate for causes that are important to them and welcome the opportunity to work with any student or student group to discuss appropriate and creative ways to do so while at school. Our school leaders have been working closely with students who wish to assemble in order to provide them with a safe space to express themselves. Our top priority is always to support the academic and social emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment for all.
Oklahoma City police and the sheriff should emulate the OKCPS, which supported the students’ constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and free expression, which they exercised in an orderly manner. Local law enforcement should be equally supportive of these students’ families who are helping build a better city and nation.
Let’s hope the Supreme Court will respect the humanity of our students who so clearly want to thrive “here” where they call home.