OBERLIN — Several hundred people gathered to voice opposition to President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind protections for young immigrants who entered the United States illegally.
Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program which will end in six months.
DACA was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 after intense pressure from immigrant advocates who wanted protections for the young immigrants who were mostly raised in the U.S. but lacked legal status.
The program protects them from deportation — granting a two-year reprieve that can be extended by issuing a work permit and a Social Security number.
DACA recipients must meet several requirements, including having no criminal record. Immigrants who are accepted into the program and later get arrested face deportation to their home country.
They also must have been 30 or younger when the program was launched and have been brought to the U.S. before age 16. The application cost is nearly $500, and permits must be renewed every two years. The application and renewal process take several weeks, and many immigrants hire lawyers to help navigate the process.
Those who gathered in Oberlin, people of all ages including a large amount of students but also older college alumni, voiced opposition to Trump’s action but also voiced support for those benefitting from DACA. Groups like Obies for Undocumented Inclusion and the Lorain Ohio Immigrant Rights Association were present.
Some held candles as a reminder to stay vigilant in the coming months and others held signs with phrases like “Let the Dreamers Stay” and “Dreamers are Americans.”
Marcelo Vinces, director of the Oberlin College Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences, came to the United States as an undocumented child with his parents from Ecuador.
Vinces said his family was able to gain a path to citizenship in 1986 through the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was signed by former President Ronald Reagan. The act allowed his family to apply for an amnesty program where they received residency and eventually citizenship.
Vinces said had DACA been around when he was a child, he and his siblings would have surely benefited from it. He said Trump’s action feels like an affront to people like his parents who left Ecuador never knowing if they’d see their families again and knowing they’d have to work menial jobs in the United States and possibly live a life of hiding.
Undocumented immigrants contribute about $12 billion annually to state and federal governments in taxes, he said, and said less than 3 percent of undocumented immigrants have felony convictions.
“The narrative that undocumented immigrants are living off the government or living a life of crime is totally false,” he said.
Oberlin resident Janet Garrett, who is running as a Democrat for the 4th Congressional District held by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, read the famous poem about Nazis coming to take away those who opposed them.
Garrett said dreamers aren’t the first group being singled out by the Trump administration — adults being deported are — and she urged everyone to speak out against such actions.
Garrett said she went to Cleveland Hopkins Airport in July where she witnessed the deportation of Jesus Lopez, who had lived in the United States for 17 years while paying taxes and working jobs others wouldn’t do to support his four American-born children.
“Watching his children cry as he was led away was horrific,” she said. “This is not who we are as a nation.”
Libni Lopez, Oberlin College program coordinator of the Multicultural Resource Center, said people in Oberlin will resist and fight Trump’s action against DACA and work to protect Oberlin College students who are undocumented.
“No one should live in fear of being arrested and taken away from the place they call home,” he said. “I have a message to those students: you are important, your voice matters, you belong here. Today served as a reminder that our work is not over and now, more than ever, we need to be united.”
Zury Gutierrez, founder for Obies for Undocumented Inclusion, said Americans can’t afford to be silent any longer.
“Beginning March 5, an estimate of about 1,400 people will start losing their DACA per day,” she said. “I say 1,400 per day. Let that number sink in. Not one or two, 1,400. Remember that number when the passion starts dwindling down.”
Lili Sandler, who heads the progressive organization Lorain County Rising, said Trump is a weak and racist president. Since he won’t take action on immigrant reform, it is up to Americans to pressure Congress to draft meaningful reforms, she said.
“We are here to tell folks to contact their members in Congress and remind them this is not a done deal,” she said. “We as citizens need to make sure Congress does what’s right. What’s right is not forcing 800,000 Americans, regardless of their documentation to live in fear.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story
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