September 13, 2017

With DACA Axed, Countermovements Accelerate

By Donald Gilpin

Widespread criticism, along with a barrage of political, legal, and proposed legislative action, has arisen in response to last week’s Trump administration announcement of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, that protected some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, also known as DREAMers, from deportation.

The announcement, delivered last Tuesday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, charged legislators with replacing the policy before its expiration in March 2018 and set up the crucial battleground in Congress, where there are multiple bills pending to address the plight of the DREAMers.

Members of congress are being swamped with calls and emails from constituents, said Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh. Urging everyone to keep the pressure on, she continued, “People should be calling Congress every day. They’re counting and tallying the response. It’s an important issue for the entire nation.”

Ms. Abizadeh noted that “there was an incredible response to the attorney general’s announcement last Tuesday. Already by noon we were at the Statehouse for a rally. We want to make sure that the DREAMers feel that they are protected.”

Commenting on the increased concern and activity at LALDEF offices on Chambers Street in Trenton, Ms. Abizadeh said, “For the last five years these youth have been able to participate fully in our society and have contributed billions of dollars to our federal gross domestic product.”

Her statement at last Tuesday’s DACA rally included a plea to contact representatives and senators, urging them to support legislation that will protect the DREAMers. “With today’s announcement, promising young adults have been thrown into a state of fear and uncertainty,” she said. “It is up to us to fight and rally with the DREAMers to get legislation passed that would provide them permanent status with our immigration civil code. These young people have kept their side of the bargain, against all odds. We will not let them down.”

Ms. Abizadeh urged passage of a “clean” Dream Act bill, not tied to immigration enforcement and not including
additional funding for detention, deportation, or a wall.

Decrying the Trump administration’s “betrayal of men and women who make up the fabric of this nation” and its focus “on rallying the xenophobic base that fuels the flames of their discrimination,” Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) stated, “I am ready to work with my Republican colleagues on creating permanent protections for DREAMers. Republican house leadership must bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote. Hundreds of thousands of lives depend on it.”

Congressman Leonard Lance (R-7), meanwhile, has cosponsored the Recognizing America’s Children Act, a bill that would grant high school graduates without a serious criminal record, and who don’t rely on public assistance, conditional immigrant status and the possibility of future citizenship.

Supporting President Trump’s decision, Mr. Lance stated that his bill would “provide a workable path for DREAMers with DACA status” and “provide a workable, permanent legislative solution for those individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children with their undocumented parents.”

Many academic and business leaders and foreign governments have condemned Mr. Trump’s decision, with numerous protests taking place in Washington and across the country.

Sixteen state attorneys general have filed suit against the president’s decision to cancel the DACA program. Last Friday Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, with ten campuses and 283,000 students, filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the White House officials of violating administrative procedures and constitutional due process requirements in abruptly ending the DACA program. As secretary of homeland security in 2012, Ms. Napolitano was one of the original creators of the DACA program.

Locally, Mayor Liz Lempert announced that Princeton continues to stand as a welcoming community, and said, “We urge Congress to act quickly to create an immigration system that is fair, just, and moral. In our community we will work with our local residents to understand the impact of this decision and continue to support them.”

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber sent a letter to Congressional leaders last week urging them to take action on behalf of the DREAMers, to “give these young people the protections and peace of mind that DACA provided, and going beyond that, a path to permanent residence and citizenship.”

A statement from LALDEF last week announced, “Whether clients come for legal support, ESL, mentoring and enrichment, income tax preparation, computer classes, or counseling, LALDEF is committed to helping our immigrant neighbors achieve their dreams. In the weeks and months ahead, LALDEF will be helping newly vulnerable DREAMers challenge this travesty of justice.”

On September 22 and 29, from 1-7 p.m., LALDEF will be helping those who are eligible for two-year work permit renewals. The deadline for renewal is October 5.