Citing personal experiences and national values, New Haven and Connecticut activists, politicians and residents condemned the decision by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era policy that allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to receive work permits and avoid deportation.
Roughly 800,000 DACA recipients currently benefit from the program, including 10,000 Connecticut residents. Trump’s repeal will go into effect in six months. Before then, Congress will review the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would give current DACA recipients permanent legal status despite the recent repeal.
“We are going to have an estimated 800,000 young people whose lives will be shattered and who will be joining the 11 million other people who are now living in the shadows in fear of our government and in fear of deportation at any moment,” said Kica Matos, director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change.
Matos said activist groups, including CCC, will be mobilizing at the national level in a coordinated response to DACA’s repeal. She said a permanent solution to protect DACA recipients is needed, adding that CCC is encouraging those concerned by the repeal to call their representatives in Congress to demand that they pass the DREAM Act.
She added that she expects Yale to protect students who benefit from DACA. In an email to the Yale community on Tuesday, University President Peter Salovey reiterated his support for DACA, echoing a letter he sent to Trump last week in which he urged the president to reconsider his decision to roll back the policy.
“These are young people who have really seized the opportunity they were given by the government to become productive citizens. They are our neighbors, people we worship with, people our kids go to school with,” Matos said. “It just speaks to the senseless cruelty of Trump and his administration.”
The organizers of CT Students for a Dream, an advocacy group for DACA recipients known as C4D, denounced the reversal as a move to appease white supremacists.
In a press release from the group, Camila Bortolleto, a DACA recipient and C4D Campaign Manager, said immigrant youth should not face a gap in protection while Congress develops legislation.
Local politicians have maintained that they will continue to support Connecticut’s immigrant communities.
At a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday, Mayor Toni Harp said the city will do everything possible to protect residents. She said she will be working with New Haven’s federal delegation to ensure they are working across the political aisle to pass the DREAM Act. The city’s Corporation Counsel is also ready to work with lawyers across the country to protect anyone that federal authorities may try to destabilize or deport, she said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., described the reversal as “cruel and irrational” and pledged to redouble the bipartisan fight to pass the DREAM Act into law so that DACA recipients can have the certainty and security of legal status. He said Trump’s decision betrays American values and America’s promise to hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, adding that the decision will also cost America the skills and energy of many immigrants.
Still, members of the immigrant community expressed fear and uncertainty about the future of DACA recipients as well as other undocumented immigrants.
Jesus Morales, an organizer with activist group Unidad Latina en Acción, said he was concerned that Congress will not succeed in passing the act, since previous efforts to pass such a bill, beginning in 2001, have not come to fruition.
“It hurts us very, very personally that this administration could have the nerve to say that their contribution doesn’t matter, that their presence isn’t so critically important to our community and our family,” said Joe Foran, a New Haven resident and ULA member with nieces who benefit from DACA. “The fact that they are going now after DACA just shows the indiscriminate xenophobia and racism of this administration.”
Ramon Garibaldo Valdez GRD ’22 said DACA has allowed thousands of young people to enter the formal economy, buy houses and have access to health care. DACA also gave them peace of mind with the assurance that they would not be deported, he said.
Longtime New Haven activist and former social worker Barbara Fair described the Trump administration’s decision as “heartbreaking.”
“This will have a devastating impact,” she said. “We have a lot of immigrants here who, because of some of the things the prior administration did, were able to live better and have more opportunities. Of course in New Haven we are going to be fighting against [the reversal].”
The Obama administration implemented DACA in 2012.
Sara Tabin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Sept. 6: Due to an editing error, several words were left off the headline that mistakenly gave the impression that activists were protesting DACA rather than its end.