About 100 protesters rallied on the Rutgers University-Newark campus. It was one of several demonstrations Monday across New Jersey, marking the March 5 deadline set by the president for the expiration of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They urged Congress to fix DACA.
“We need a clean DREAM Act now. We are tired of being Dreamers, because in every way, except for a piece of paper, we are U.S. citizens. And all we want is for this country, a country that we love and that we call home, to love us back and let us stay,” said DACA recipient Alexis Torres Machado.
New Jersey’s home to more than 22,000 ‘Dreamers’ who gained a brief reprieve when two federal appeals courts temporarily blocked Donald Trump’s order to end DACA. The program has resumed processing applications, but its existence, and the status of ‘Dreamers’, remains politically fraught.
“I applied last Thursday. I renewed, sent out my application to process. So, I’m really excited to see when I can get my card again because it’s kind of like a sigh of relief,” said Cinthia Osorio.
Efforts to fix DACA stalled in Washington last month with both sides blaming the other.
“Dems are no longer talking DACA. Out of sight, out of mind, they say,” Trump tweeted Feb. 24.
“We gave him virtually so much of what he wanted, he still couldn’t accept it. And so, he left the Dreamers not with a dream, but with a nightmare,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
The protesters marched to the federal building in Newark, the scene of increased deportation orders by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Jersey. There were 2,536 last year, that’s up 37 percent from 1,852 deported in 2016. However, Hudson County officials recently announced staff at the county jail would no longer ask about immigration status.
“They have one of the most diverse communities in the state, and for them to have this kind of contract was problematic. So it’s a good sign and it sends a message to the other counties that they should really rethink those contracts, too,” said Johanna Calle, the executive director of the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
Officers at jails in Monmouth, Cape May and Salem still check immigration papers. Meanwhile, passengers on an NJ Transit train tweeted Monday morning that the conductor announced, “There are ICE agents and Homeland Security on the train … looking for illegals.” Both agencies denied it. NJ Transit immediately suspended that crew member without pay, adding, “NJT will not tolerate such reprehensible conduct …”
‘Dreamers’ feel the stress.
“I wake up every day, fearing for my family’s safety and I just want to be here to make a difference, because I don’t know what my future’s going to look like,” said Shey Zegarra.
Congress and the president remain locked in a legislative stalemate. The fate of DACA and immigration reform may rest in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.