This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out March 5 and March 16. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).
1. Whose Budget?
For the past month, the United States Student Association has been leading the charge to oppose $150 billion in cuts to the Pell Grant, subsidized loan, income-based repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. Beginning March 16, students across the country made hundreds of phone calls to House and Senate Budget Committee members. On March 18, USSA students, staff and allies disrupted the Senate Budget Committee and were arrested and charged for speaking out. The week of March 23, we sent more than 13,000 emails through an online petition, culminating in an action on March 27 at the Capitol, where more than 200 students and allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, turned out to oppose the cuts—and ten students were arrested for blocking the intersection of First and Maryland. On March 30, 250 students converged on Capitol Hill for a lobbying blitz. We are continuing to build support against these cuts while mobilizing more and bigger actions—not only until Congress rolls them back, but until higher education is free.
—United States Student Association
2. Whose History Month?
On March 23, fifty community members gathered outside the ICE field office in Santa Ana, California, and marched to Santa Ana City Jail to demand the release of Omara Gomez-Aviles, a Salvadorian mother of three who was detained as part of ICE’s “Operation Cross Check” earlier this month. At age 17, Omara came to the US fleeing the civil war and violence in her home country—including sexual abuse and an arranged marriage to an older man. Although she has two felony convictions, which make her a priority for deportation, these are from sixteen years ago—and deportation should not be a form of punishment. This protest was part of “Chant Down the Walls,” a concert series started last year in Los Angeles by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, along with youth and community activists. In the coming months, we plan to take these serenata concerts to other states, including Arizona, Texas and Alabama.