Thousands of immigrant students from all over the country with temporary legal protections through DACA are descending on Washington D.C. That includes a caravan coming from Tennessee.
They will join in others in asking their state representatives to push for a vote on the Dream Act before December.
It was barely three thirty in the morning when more than a dozen students piled into rented vans outside Casa Azafran off Nollensville Road. The group planned to make several pit stops in other Tennessee cities to pick up more students.
The 27 participants hail from 10 cities including Memphis, Morristown and Nashville. Most are high school and college students.
Lizeth Luna attends Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro and says there are some nerves among the younger students.
"Other folks I’m coming with are like 'are we going to get arrested?' 'Is something bad going to happen?' But I'm just like 'no', we are going to be fine," says Luna. "We are going to come home safe and we are going to fight for what we want and what we want to achieve."
Even though she's just 17, Luna has years of experience advocating for immigrants rights. She began attending marches when she was just 13, shortly after her father was pulled over for a traffic infraction and jailed in Franklin. He was placed in immigration proceedings.
She says it's taken four lawyers and support from organizations like the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) to keep him here. But his future is still in limbo.
Now Luna also worries about what will happen to her and about 8000 other Tennesseans when their work permits through DACA expire.
But, she says, "we are here fighting no matter what. "
The Tennessee students have confirmed meetings with Senator Bob Corker and Congressman Jim Cooper, though they hope others will agree to seem them too. Then, some will take part in a peaceful act of civil disobedience which could result in arrests.
Organizers say that’s specially risky for DACA and undocumented youth so it is up to them to decide if they want to join the sit-in.
It is all happening as part of a national movement called “Operation Dream Act Now” organized by United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the U.S.
Participants are specifically calling for a “clean” DREAM Act — one that would create an earned pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth and would not result in increased deportations, funding a border wall or cutting legal immigration.
As 'Dreamers' descend on Capitol Hill on Thursday, others around the country plan to walk out of their classrooms in a symbolic act of support. A number of cities have also organized rallies and marches.
The goal is to remind lawmakers that more than two months have passed since Trump announced he’d end DACA, and that action simply cannot wait.