Metro, News

Activists, elected officials protest Trump’s DACA decision

Demonstrators speak on necessity of better policy at rally on steps of RI State House

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, September 10, 2017

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Local activists, elected officials and Brown students protested President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Friday. Trump’s decision to allow DACA to expire next year has left some students and Providence community members with uncertain futures.

The program, which was created through an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama in 2012, offers legal work permits and renewable protection from deportation for two years to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

March to the State House

Starting at Burnside Park, the protest was organized by the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities, the Providence Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and the Providence Student Union. It ended in speeches from DACA recipients, an immigration lawyer and other allies of the undocumented immigrant community on the steps of the State House.

Krissia Rivera Perla ’15 MD’21 spoke to the crowd about her desire to become a doctor and her experiences as a DACA recipient. She added that the issues surrounding DACA were not “about political beliefs. It’s about sympathy and love. We deserve better simply because we’re human beings.”

“We fought for so long to be treated as human beings with dignity,” she told The Herald. “We are contributing to this country, and, everyday, we are being demeaned by the media.”

Yaruska Ordinola, a DACA recipient who graduated from the University of Rhode Island, also addressed demonstrators.

She told The Herald she was initially afraid when she heard about Trump’s decision because she believed she would “lose everything … the ability to have a license, the ability to have an ID, the ability to work.”

However, she said that fear then turned into “disappointment and then it turned into empowerment … (because) DACA does not define me.”

“We all knew it was a temporary” solution, she added.

Renata Mauriz ’17.5 also addressed the crowd about the issues she faced as a DACA recipient, like having to use her economic contributions and academic achievements to defend her worthiness of living in the United States because her humanity on its own would not suffice.

“Right now we have the opportunity … to tell Congress that we are not taking any crumbs that only protect Dreamers like me,” Mauriz said, adding that “millions of undocumented immigrants deserve protections,” and that the premise of only helping DACA recipients because they seemed “more American” was wrong.

Mayor Jorge Elorza told The Herald that defending DACA is a personal issue for him. His sister was born in Guatemala and brought to the United States when she was one year old. “They didn’t call them Dreamers (then), but she was a Dreamer.”

With Trump “picking on folks who can’t really stand up for themselves,” Elorza said he believes “it’s all the more important for us to stand up and speak in strong and certain terms that we’re going to look out for the people that he’s picking on.” He told The Herald that Providence will offer municipal identification cards and scholarships that are accessible to undocumented students living in Rhode Island.

Gaspar Espinoza said he came to the rally to bring attention to the fact that Gov. Gina Raimondo had not kept her promise to pass an executive order to grant driver’s licenses to the undocumented immigrants living in Rhode Island. “It’s very hypocritical of Gina Raimondo to come to all these events and say, ‘I’m here for the undocumented. I’m here for the immigrant’ when she’s capable of passing (this) executive order,” he said. The Herald previously reported that efforts to pass a proposal to give undocumented Rhode Islanders driver’s licenses stalled in 2015.

Planning the protest

The protest was organized by Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities, which counts among its members Javier Juarez MA’18 and Assistant Professor of American Studies Kevin Escudero.

CASO funds the Tam Tran scholarship named in memory of a Brown undergraduate and intended for undocumented college students in Rhode Island. Additionally, it has built a support network for undocumented students across the state, Juarez said.

Juarez added that the idea to organize the protest came from a meeting that CASO held for undocumented students during the week that Trump announced his decision to roll back DACA.

Those at the meeting wondered “what are we going to do in retaliation for” this decision, he said. Having just attended an immigrants’ rights march, Juarez said he suggested holding a rally for DACA and everyone “jumped on that message.”

“We didn’t plan for the turnout that we got,” he added.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article said that Yaruska Ordinola told the crowd she was initially afraid when she heard about Trump’s decision because she believed she would “lose everything…” In fact, she told that to The Herald. The Herald regrets the error.