Dozens of local immigrants, along with immigrant activists, people of faith, and ministers from different religious groups, came together outside a Nashville office to support immigrant residents and raise awareness about a decision to end a program that could have an effect on many local immigrants and their families on September 8.
The vigil, organized by Nashville Community Defense, occurred at the Nashville headquarters of Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) on Brick Church Park Dr. to show support for various immigrant groups in Nashville and call attention to the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that was started by former President Barack Obama in 2012 as a way for children who were born and raised in the United States to undocumented parents to reside in the U.S., receive an education, and pursue careers without having to face deportation. According to a press release, people who come to Tennessee from other countries are trying to flee from violence or looking for economic opportunities unavailable in other countries.
The vigil started with songs and prayers from different ministers, followed by speeches from people who are dealing with DACA and were either affected by Trump’s decision or know someone who was dealing with DACA. One of the participants, Naomi Sepulveda, said that she understands the immigration issue firsthand. She has her own experience with immigration within her own family. She said she attended the rally because she wanted to speak up for herself and other teenage kids who are DACA recipients.
“I first wanted to be in the light because I didn’t want to be afraid,” Sepulveda said. “I wanted to stand tall and speak for myself and not have someone else speak for everybody else. I’m also a teenager, so I wanted to speak up for the other teens that might be scared, the ones who have siblings that are going through what my siblings are going through. They have people that will fight for them. They have people that will not let a single day pass by without them feeling safe.”
Sepulveda said that she was currently going through the process of registering for DACA by proving that she was a United States resident before the age of 16. She also said undocumented parents should attend the immigration offices with their children and apply for DACA.
Rev. Kelli X, lead minister of the Village Church PCUSA, said that she attended the rally because she saw the immigration issue as a bigger issue dealing with the criminal justice system, as well as seeing African Americans being imprisoned more everyday along with people of color being targeted because of their immigration status. She said she was not surprised with Trump’s decision to end DACA. She said that the thing that was surprising to her was that he took advantage of people’s problems and suffering during Hurricane Harvey for political gain.
Rev. X said the places where it was happening are located in an area where undocumented immigrants live. She also said that the response to the rally had a positive effect on people.
Rev. X said that people should contact their elected representative to make sure they take action to address the problem. Another protester, Cathy Carrillo, said that the importance of the vigil was to make sure people in Nashville understand what DACA was and encourage people to support the immigrant community.