Some 22,000 New Jersey residents face deportation starting March 6 unless Congress acts. They are unauthorized immigrants brought here as children and this week some of them and their supporters are staging a hunger strike to press members of Congress to pass a bill that would give them a path to citizenship. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron is at one of their protests in Morristown.
Aron: We’re outside Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen’s office where about 50 people have been demonstrating since four o’clock this afternoon. They were at Congressman Chris Smith’s office yesterday and tomorrow it will be Congressman Lobiondo. On Thanksgiving Day they’ll go to Congressman Lance’s office and they’ll break their hunger strike. We have two of them here who are on a hunger strike, Adriana Delgado and Stuart Sydenstricker. Why are you on a hunger strike?
Delgado: I am a DACA recipient and it is time now to push for a clean DREAM Act. I am willing to do whatever it takes in order for this message to be pushed. It needs to happen now. It’s an urgent matter.
Aron: What is a clean DREAM Act?
Delgado: A clean DREAM Act means that the DACA recipients and those eligible through work, education, or military service will be provided a legal pathway toward permanent residency and citizenship status. However, what we are asking for should not come with any funding for the wall that the Trump administration has been promoting or any mass deportation.
Aron: No increased border security?
Aron: Stuart Sydenstricker, why are you out here and why are you fasting?
Sydenstricker: I’m fasting because a lot of the young supporters that I have in my life, a lot of the mentors, have been DACA recipients. There’s a lot of youth — 800,000 in the country — that are now in this limbo situation because of a possible change in the DREAM Act, actually they want to eliminate it, and we want to support the clean one, just like my friend explained to you.
Aron: So you’re not an immigrant, yourself?
Sydenstricker: I was born in Brazil. I came here about 30 years ago. I was undocumented for about six years before my first wife in New Jersey. Now, I’m a citizen, but I have a close connection with the immigrant community.
Aron: Where were you born, Adriana?
Delgado: I was born in Mexico.
Aron: And how old were you when you came to America?
Delgado: I was two years old.
Aron: How does it feel to be living under the threat of deportation when you’ve been here all your life, virtually.
Delgado: So ever since I was little I’ve known to stay away from any potential ICE raids. It’s a situation where you feel like you’re closed in and you really can’t come out and expose yourself and be who you are. There’s no freedom there. And when DACA came it gave us a little taste of what that was, but now that it’s being stripped away from us we’re asking for something permanent.
Aron: Have you been active with immigrant groups for awhile now or is this new to you?
Sydenstricker: No, I’ve been active for about 15 years with this organization in Morristown, which is an immigrant-led organization working for progressive changes in immigration law.
Aron: You haven’t eaten since yesterday?
Sydenstricker: Yeah, we started, Sunday night was our last meal, and we’re going to go until Thursday.
Aron: You’re going to go until Thanksgiving and have a nice turkey meal?
Sydenstricker: Well, we’re going to go slowly.
Aron: And you’re going to go to other Republican congresspeople’s office Wednesday and Thursday, will you be there?
Delgado: Yes, I will be at all of them.
Aron: And how do you feel having not had a meal since Sunday night?
Delgado: I was a little lightheaded this morning. I was very hungry, but coming to these rallies really uplifts us and motivates us to keep going.
Aron: Thank you both for talking to us. These two and all the people behind me are quite passionate about DACA and the DREAM Act. There is a state DREAM Act that gives in state tuition to children in this situation, but there’s no federal DREAM Act and they’re calling for a clean DREAM Act.