Metro, News

Elected officials gather to speak in support of DACA

Governor, mayor stress program’s significance, announce R.I.’s effort to legally challenge decision

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it would end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, a policy enacted by the Obama administration in 2012 that offers legal protections to individuals who entered the United States as children without documentation.

The decision, which places roughly 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” at risk for deportation, was met with criticism from elected officials in Rhode Island who spoke at a press conference held at the Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls.

In her speech at the event, Gov. Gina Raimondo said that Rhode Island stands “behind (its) Dreamers … we want them to know that there’s a place in Rhode Island for everybody.”

Like other Rhode Island leaders, the governor has criticized several of Trump’s proposed policies.

“Let’s send a message to (President Donald Trump) … and members of Congress who are trying to divide America in this time … (that) their policies of hate and cruelty … aren’t going to be tolerated in our country or our state,” she added.

Peter Kilmartin, attorney general of Rhode Island, also spoke at the conference and announced that he would join “other like-minded attorney generals” in legally challenging Trump’s decision to end the program on behalf of the state of Rhode Island.

“Trump has committed a moral crime against children by rescinding this order today,” Kilmartin said. He also urged attendees to “put the pressure on Congress” to pass legislation that would protect DACA recipients.

Mayor Jorge Elorza said that Dreamers are “Americans in every sense of the word,” and to repeal the program is a “cruel-hearted” decision.

“This marks a day that is an assault, an attack on the American dream for 800,000 young people in our country,” he added. Dreamers are “simply asking for the opportunity to continue studying, working and defending our country in the military. … They deserve the ability to pursue the American dream.”

Two Dreamers also spoke at the event, including Javier Juarez MA’18. Juarez spoke about his journey to Brown, which he felt was made possible by programs like DACA. Juarez, who planned to attend law school next fall, said Trump’s decision saddened him as it meant his accomplishments could vanish.

Juarez told The Herald he came to the United States when he was 10 and has lived in Rhode Island for the past 18 years. “It’s frustrating when people are like, ‘You’re an illegal alien,’” Juarez said. “They don’t know how much I’ve become part of this community or how much I’ve contributed to this community.”

Juarez said that he felt that his work with the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities, which connected him with younger students from similar backgrounds as himself, gave him a “sense of responsibility” to speak publicly about his experiences as a DACA recipient.

“When I have the opportunity, I’m going to speak for the students I work with that don’t have the courage to come out,” Juarez said. “But I also have to deal with reality, which is I’m (at Brown) now. … I have to register for classes. I have to fund my degree.”

The latest decision to rollback the DACA program complicates Juarez’s ability to pay for his degree at Brown. “Is it smart for me to take out a loan knowing that I should save money in case I get deported?” Juarez said. While he previously had the security to work and pay off his loan, Juarez said he is now dealing with “a ticking time bomb” given the program’s new expiration date.

“Being forced to make these decisions is tough mentally,” Juarez said.

But Juarez said he is happy to be at a university that supports its DACA students. “My own department, the American studies department … reached out to me saying (that they) hoped everything was okay,” he said. It  “feels like you belong and like people are looking out for you.”

Juarez said that it was important for people who aren’t personally affected by the decision to end DACA to “advocate on behalf of those people that are scared to come out.”

“These are people who cannot vote. I pay taxes, but I cannot vote,” he added. Given Congress’ responsibility to replace the program, Juarez stressed the importance of placing pressure on Congressional members and attorney generals around the country to allow Dreamers to stay.

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