The Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Children policy instituted by President Obama has kicked open a hornet’s nest of criticism and frustration in Connecticut’s Latino community.
What quickly emerged is widespread and often impassioned support, transcending party lines, to protect the Dreamers: the undocumented aliens, primarily between the ages of 15 and 30, who were brought to the U.S. as minors.
Without DACA, more than 800,000 young immigrants, more than 8,000 in Connecticut, many of whom are students or hold jobs, would lose their two-year work permits and become vulnerable to deportation, often to countries they have never seen.
“It is not their fault that they came into the country illegally and thus they should not be punished,” said Kristian Rosado, a member of the New Britain Board of Alders, a self-described slightly right of center independent.
Terms like “devastating” and “heartless” as well as “not American” and “not decent” were used to describe the Republican president’s gambit, which was announced Tuesday, Sept. 5 by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to wind down DACA and give Congress until March 5 to fix the nation’s immigration system.
Emanuela Palmares, a Republican from western Connecticut, questioned the shifting of responsibility for DACA to Congress in a Facebook posting made shortly after the administration’s decision was announced. “So the solution is to end DACA, one of the most successful immigration relief programs in history,” she asked, “and pass the ball down to congress that has done nothing for the past 12 years on immigration reform?”
Werner Oyandel, senior analyst for the General Assembly Commission on Equity and Opportunity and longtime activist for Latino causes, called the DACA edict “heartless.” He also said, “I am seeing positive responses from community leaders across the state, regardless of political affiliation, in support of these students that so much deserve their voices to be heard.”
State Rep. Christopher Rosario, a Bridgeport Democrat and chairman of the state legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus expressed hope that the DACA issue would unify Connecticut Latinos, and took a harsh view of Trump policies toward minorities. “The president will stop at nothing to make the lives of Black and Brown American’s miserable.”
Rosado and Oyanadel both challenged Congress to rebuild the immigration system, which due to intransigence primarily by Republicans, gained little headway during the administration of Barack Obama, a Democrat.
“The ball is now in the hands of Congress and I believe that it’s time for Congress to act so that there won’t be any issues of legality pertaining to the future of the Dreamers,” said Rosado, who is of Puerto Rican descent and exempt from immigration barriers.
Rosado also said, “I hope Congress can find a solution in a bipartisan fashion to fix our broken immigration system that ultimately will provide a path forward for the Dreamers.”
Oyanadel urged Connecticut’s congressional delegation “to push their colleagues in Congress to pass the Dream Act to permanently help all Dreamers with an adjustment of their legal status.”
Palmares, an immigrant from Brazil who is running for a seat on the Danbury school board, also stated:
“DACA was good for the economy; Dreamers where able to legally work and pay taxes. DACA was good for national security; Dreamers did not have criminal records and were able to acquire drivers licenses driving legally, and DACA was good for our communities. Dreamers were focusing their efforts in getting an education and becoming more and more ingrained in our communities, helping their families, and imagining a future here in U.S.- the country they were raised in, and love.
“This is a devastating day. But remember Dreamers, you have not come this far by accident. You are #HereToStay #HereIsWhereYouBelong #CTC4D #DefendDACA,” posted Palmares, a multi-language newspaper publisher who ran unsuccessfully for state representative last year.
An emotional plea for support of DACA students was delivered by Dr. Elsa Nunez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University, at an outdoors gathering on the Willimantic campus, a speech Oynadel shared on Facebook.
“They deserve to be American citizens. They came when they were little. They speak fluent English; they are American people,” said Nunez, a daughter of Puerto Rican migrants.
“For the next months we have got to fight,” the college president said. “I am ready to talk to every elected official in this country with every breath I take that this is not fair, this is not right, this is not decent, this is not American.”