November 29, 2017

DACA Rally Brings Crowd to Hinds Plaza

By Donald Gilpin

About 200 people rallied in Hinds Plaza outside the Princeton Public Library at noon yesterday, loudly voicing support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and calling on Congress to pass the DREAM Act by December 8.

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests earlier in the morning on Witherspoon and John Streets provided a certain urgency and sobering context to the proceedings, but did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants. 

Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter reported that he was informed of the ICE action after the fact, but the Princeton Police Department was not involved and was provided with few details. Leticia Fraga, newly-elected Princeton Council member and Latin American Legal Defense Fund (LALDEF) board chair, said she received a panicked phone call from a local resident early Tuesday morning. She noted that she thought there were four individuals arrested, only one for whom there was a warrant. She urged residents to acquire Community ID cards.

Further details of the raid were not available at press time from the local police or Human Services Department, or from ICE.

In the rally titled “Hands Around Princeton in Support of a Clean DREAM Act,” sponsored by LALDEF and an array of local community organizations and faith-based institutions, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, newly-elected Assemblyman Roy Freiman, Nassau Presbyterian Church Pastor David Davis, LALDEF Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh, and a 24-year-old DACA recipient all called upon enthusiastic demonstrators to urge Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act that would provide a pathway to citizenship for recipients of DACA without expanding funding for immigration enforcement.

Carrying an array of signs supporting DREAMersС“No Hate, No Fear, Dreamers are Welcome Here,” “Keep Calm and Love DACA С #Here to Stay,” and many others С the crowd marched from Hinds Plaza up Witherspoon Street, through Palmer Square, and back to Hinds Plaza to listen to the speakers. The marchers called out a variety of chants as they marched, including “When DREAMers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “Money for jobs and education, not for mass deportations!”

Lempert asked the crowd a series of questions, with the supportive crowd chiming in at appropriate points. “What are our values? What do we stand for?” she asked. “Do we want to be the kind of country that kicks out hopeful young strivers? Do we want policies rooted in fear and cruelty? Or do we want to be a country that treats our young people the way we want our own kids to be treated?”

She continued, “Do we want a strong, healthy economy that lifts all boats? Do we want to uphold the values of a welcoming spirit? Do we want to protect our DREAMers?” She added that in Princeton “we’ve made a commitment to be a welcoming community. We want every resident to feel supported. We’ve been working hard to build bonds of trust, and we will continue those efforts.” She concluded by urging Congress “to lead with moral courage and pragmatism and pass the bipartisan DREAM Act.”

Last week immigrant youth hunger strikers, under the auspices of LALDEF, visited New Jersey congressional offices during the congressional recess to stage rallies in support of the Clean DREAM Act: last Monday at Rep. Chris Smith’s office in Hamilton, Tuesday at Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s office in Morristown, Wednesday at the office of Rep. Frank LoBiondo in Mays Landing, and Thursday at the office of Rep. Leonard Lance in Clinton.

On September 5, the Trump administration announced that the DACA program, providing protective status to some 800,000 immigrants known as DREAMers, would end by March 5, 2018, putting those DREAMers in jeopardy of losing their worker permits and making them vulnerable to deportation.

Trump urged Congress to pass legislation that could allow people here illegally to stay, but DACA legislation does not seem to be a priority for congressional action in the final month of this year despite pledges of Democratic leaders and unanimous support of Democrats in Congress.

The Hinds Plaza supporters of the DREAM Act and activists in other parts of the country, however, are determined to bring the issue to the top of Congress’s priority list.

Noting the plight of “800,000 young adults whose lives are woven into the fabric of the country,” LALDEF has written, “We are calling on Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act that restores protections, provides legal status, and allows a pathway to citizenship.”