Participants in the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America were welcomed to the Florida International University (FIU) Modesto Maidique campus on Thursday by protesters.
Special interest groups and members of the FIU community gathered outside the Graham Center to protest against the Trump administration and FIU’s decision to allow the State Department to use the university grounds to host the conference.
Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with Presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, were among the participants in the conference.
Joining the protest were immigrant rights advocates, special needs activists and members of the LGBTQ community, as well as FIU students protesting FIU itself.
Ryan Almodovar, a student at FIU and a member of Students for a Democratic Society, worries FIU’s involvement in politics is not transparent. He claims FIU authorities may be placing themselves on a platform against issues that affect Miami’s minority-majority population.
“The students knew Hillary Clinton and Obama was coming. They didn’t know Mike Pence was coming, they didn’t know Rex Tillerson was coming, they didn’t know that Steve Mnuchin was coming or John Kelly. All four members of the administration come for, it seems, like a very back door reason, and it’s just amazing to me that they wouldn’t mention that,” said Almodovar.
The organization Students for a Democratic Society, which is based in FIU, is requesting that the university issues a formal statement regarding its political position.
Haitian Women of Miami and the Florida Immigration Coalition were also present outside the Graham Center to protest the Trump administration’s position on Haitian Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
“We deserve TPS renewal. We are not begging for it. We are not asking for charity. We deserve TPS to be renewed for our families,” said Marleine Bastien, spokesperson for Haitian Women of Miami.
Both groups have actively been voicing their concerns for the Haitian community since TPS was set to be terminated later this year. Haitian Women of Miami plan to meet with lawmakers in Washington DC to discuss an alternative to termination.
Patty Barbetta, a professor for students with special needs, is concerned about the lack of funds for public education. She joined the protest to raise awareness about the voice her opinion.
“I’m not opposed to some private schools and some charter schools. What I am opposed to is taking public funds to support them,” said Barbetta.
Educators and education activists are facing a challenging future after House Bill 7069 was signed by Gov. Rick Scott Thursday, giving charter schools access to public education funding.