Pritzker School of Law students unveil petition in support of DACA


Source: Marsheda Ewulomi

First-year law student and co-founder of PODER Charlie Isaacs, speaks in the Rubloff Atrium on Wednesday. The petition called for Congress to create legislation to support DACA recipients.

Elizabeth Byrne, Assistant Campus Editor

Pritzker School of Law students gathered Wednesday to unveil a petition in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The petition, drafted by members of the Petitioners Organizing for DACA’s Effective Replacement, calls on Congress to create a “fair and efficient pathway” for “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 — and grant them protection from deportation. President Donald Trump’s administration announced Sept. 5 that the DACA program would end by March 2018.

Cindy Gerges, a co-founder of PODER, said the group intentionally presented the petition one year after Trump’s election because it wanted to make a statement. She said the event where it introduced the petition was short and last-minute, but showed her classmates’ support for the cause.

PODER debuted the petition to students in the Rubloff Atrium on NU’s Chicago campus. At the event, students and faculty — including a student who is a DACA recipient — discussed the petition and read it aloud. After the event, students electronically signed the petition, Gerges said.

“It was successful and a great start to our campaign,” the third-year law student said. “The energy was just really powerful, hearing all of the speakers and just seeing the community that we have. You don’t really see that in the classroom as much, but they matter and you see that support.”

Gerges said she felt this event allowed her to advocate for friends and fellow students who may not be able to because of their status as a “Dreamer.”

Christine Revelo-Lee, a third-year law student and co-founder of PODER, said the group crafted the petition as U.S. citizens rather than as future lawyers. Three hours after the petition’s launch, it had garnered 105 signatures, she said.

After several drafting processes, the petition was read and edited by DACA recipients in the School of Law, different affinity groups on campus and School of Law staff, Revelo-Lee said.

As future lawyers, law students hold a significant amount of power because they will take an oath to uphold the Constitution, she said.

“Right now, there is no law on the books for Congress in respect to childhood arrivals who are undocumented,” Revelo-Lee said. “We are people who are going to be enforcing laws and we’re calling on you to make one so we can enforce it.”

The petition has a three-phase plan, Revelo-Lee said. The group unveiled the petition and will collect signatures through Nov. 15 as part of the first phase, she said. Phase two will begin in January 2018 to contact and lobby local representatives, as well as to circulate it to other law schools. During the third phase, the group will try to “make as much noise as possible” before March, when the program ends, she said.

Charlie Isaacs, a first-year law student and co-founder of PODER, said the petition can demonstrate to other law schools the need for legislation.

Isaacs said the petition will also help unify the existing NU law student body to help “Dreamers” by reminding students that while they may be future lawyers, they have to focus on the humanity behind those who aren’t citizens.

“When it comes to making big changes, we all have to find our own parts of the movement and our different roles,” Isaacs said. “I would like to see this petition represent a role in terms of getting other law schools to speak up and take action as well.”

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