In a series of tweets over the Easter holiday, President Donald Trump declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — an Obama-era executive action that allowed certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country — “dead” and blamed congressional Democrats for inaction.
Connecticut activists were quick to criticize Trump, noting that he has not supported measures that would extend the program. In light of the lack of progress in Washingtion, D.C., activists say they are shifting their focus to state-level initiatives to protect the immigrant community.
“Trump’s deranged tweets about DACA confirms what we already know: That as long as he is president, there will be no legislative solution to DACA,” said Kica Matos, the director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change and a New Haven resident. “The bottom line is that this president is blinded by his deep hatred of immigrants of color. The elimination of DACA is but one example of his bigotry.”
Last September, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program, throwing the issue to lawmakers. But since then, courts have blocked the decision.
Although in the past Trump has said he would support a bipartisan bill that protects DACA recipients if it also extends the security wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, earlier this year he rejected multiple bipartisan proposals, including one that protected DACA recipients and allocated $25 billion to help construct a border wall.
In a slew of tweets on Monday and over the weekend, Trump condemned the deal and blamed Democrats for neglecting to get behind border-security measures. He also claimed that Mexico has done nothing to prevent people from entering their country through its southern border.
“DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon,” Mr. Trump posted in a Monday morning tweet.
Activists at Connecticut Students for a Dream — a youth-led statewide network fighting for the rights of undocumented youth and their families — said Trump’s rhetoric misrepresents the situation, in an attempt to stoke fear. Activists also questioned the legitimacy of his claims. For example, while Trump suggested in a Sunday tweet that people crossing the border are trying to “take advantage” of the DACA program, Camila Bortolleto, CT Students for a Dream Campaign Manager, noted that to qualify for the program, immigrants have to have lived in the U.S. continuously since 2007 and have entered the country before age 16.
“Statements that come from the White House really show a lack of knowledge on the issue. They want to portray immigrants as ‘the others’ or something to be feared,” Bortolleto told the News. “It’s very harmful to the immigrant community.”
Lucas Codognolla, executive director of CT Students for a Dream, said in a statement that recent tweets and failure to support legislation to protect immigrants show that Trump is using DACA as a “bargaining chip” to get government funding for a border wall.
Due to the delays in Congress’ efforts to pass a measure to extend DACA, Bortolleto said CT Students for a Dream has shifted its focus to state-level activism. The organization is advocating for a bipartisan proposal that would allow undocumented immigrants enrolled in Connecticut public universities to receive equal access to student-generated financial aid pools.
“Over the last several months, we have seen Congress fail, again and again, to protect immigrant youth,” Bortolleto said. “That’s why here in Connecticut we’re really focusing on statewide proposals that could help our immigrant community.”
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