Isabel Bysiewicz

New Haven’s longtime congresswoman returned home to the Elm City on Friday to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that allowed young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the country.

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, hosted a round-table event to discuss the future of DACA, which President Donald Trump announced he would rescind last month. Local DACA recipients, activists and other community members gathered at Gateway Community College to share stories and hear DeLauro’s thoughts on the program.

“You have done enough, you follow the rules, you obey the process, and all of us who are engaged in this effort are gonna fight like hell to make sure that we will protect you and will protect your opportunities,” DeLauro told the DACA recipients who attended the discussion.

After the Trump announcement, undocumented immigrants whose DACA permits were set to expire on or before March 5 were allowed to submit renewals by Oct. 5. Of the more than 150,000 DACA recipients who were eligible for renewal, tens of thousands failed to submit applications, DeLauro said. She added that she did not know whether there will be a grace period for those individuals, noting that she and many of her colleagues in the House of Representative are “livid” about the deadline and the fact that the future of thousands has been jeopardized.

In the coming months, the Trump administration is expected to negotiate the fate of DACA recipients with congressional Democrats.

At the roundtable, Sergio Ramirez, a former intern for DeLauro, praised teachers who helped him learn English and furthered his educational opportunities when he arrived in the United States at age 9. He said he left his internship on Capitol Hill after Trump announced the end of the DACA program because he felt “betrayed” by his government.

“[DACA recipients] have to choose between food or paying for their application, between rent and paying for their application,” Ramirez said. “This is toying with the lives of people, and that is just not humane or American. We’re creating problems that are not necessary.”

Arsene Lwamba, originally from Central Africa, has studied at Gateway Community College since 2015. Lwamba said he would like a degree in business, but tuition and living costs for international students have proved high, making his goals more difficult to achieve, he said.

Lwamba said his visa was revoked because he was unable to meet the requirement of attending school full time, a difficult task for someone who has to overcome the financial burdens of an international student, he said.

Lwamba said he attended the meeting to raise awareness about the financial issues international students face. He said he wondered whether the state of Connecticut “could find a way [to fund] … immigrants who have a dream and want to follow it,” reiterating the massive tuition costs for international students in Connecticut.

DeLauro also discussed the current state of legislation in Congress that would protect DACA recipients from deportation. Because the Senate Judiciary Committee has not acted on the bill, called the DREAM Act, Democrats have created a discharge petition to force the bill from the committee. The petition has 200 of the required 218 member signatures, DeLauro said.

Immigration reform — and the DREAM Act in particular — is an especially important issue for DeLauro, the daughter of immigrants. Her father came to the United States in 1913, without the ability to read or write. Eventually, he served in the military and later on the New Haven Board of Alders. Her parents could only dream that their child would represent the New Haven area in Congress, DeLauro said.

President Barack Obama created DACA with an executive order in 2012.

Isabel Bysiewicz | isabel.bysiewicz@yale.edu