Dreamers Mobilize to Save DACA and Resist Trump

Posted Sept. 6, 2017

MP3 Interview with Carolina Borotolleto, activist with the group United We Dream and co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream, conducted by Scott Harris

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As long expected, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Sept. 5 that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program, initiated by President Obama with an executive order in 2012, benefited immigrants without serious criminal histories who were younger than 16 years old when they arrived in the U.S. before 2007. An estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, 91 percent of whom are now employed, currently benefit from DACA protections.

With this announcement, no new DACA applications will be accepted, but the administration will allow DACA recipients with a work permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, the opportunity to apply for a two-year extension. Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke stated there would be a six-month delay for current DACA recipients to give Congress time to pass alternative legislation.

In making the announcement, Sessions condemned DACA, as Donald Trump often has, labeling it as unconstitutional and "unilateral executive amnesty" that has taken away hundreds of thousands of jobs from Americans. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Carolina Borotolleto, a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 9 years old. She's now an activist with the group United We Dream. She discusses what the end of DACA will mean to her and nearly 1 million other young immigrants – and the protest actions organized in response to Trump’s decision.

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: DACA works. It's an excellent program. I think there's a statistic that says that over 91 percent of people who have DACA are working, and those who are not working are in school, usually in college. So it's been a program that's really been a lifeline for a community – it's allowed undocumented people like me to be able to pursue careers, get jobs, to support their families. So taking away DACA is really a cold-hearted decision because it disrupts the lives of so many immigrant communities and families, schools, places of worship and employers.

But I guess that the fact is that we've known that this would be a possibility since the election, really. This is something that Trump ran his election on saying that he was going to take away DACA. So we've been expecting, but we've been preparing for this since Nov. 9, 2016. And the fact that it's you know, seven months after Trump took office and we still have DACA, I think is a testament to both that it's not a politically good decision for him to take away the DACA program, and it's also a testament to the large amount of support that exists for this program, both within the immigrant community and also outside the immigrant community.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Carolina, what kind of preparations have you made in the event DACA is abolished and you yourself face deportation, as well as family members that you arrived here with?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: I guess personally, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do, but I do know that no matter what happens, I want to keep fighting for the rights of immigrant communities. We've always known that DACA was just a temporary stop-gap measure. It's not law, it's just an executive order, so we've known it was temporary so we're still going to keep fighting some more.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What will the fight look like? What kind of preparations has your group locally and the national United We Dream organization made to defend DACA, as the Trump administration moves to close it down?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: Well, here in Connecticut, we've been trying to get all elected officials to show their public support for DACA. And so, a few weeks ago, we got Connecticut delegations – Sen. Blumenthal and the five congresspeople to sign onto a letter in support of DACA that was addressed to then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, by asking him to keep the DACA program in place. And then we got the attorney general to voice his support for DACA and sign on to a letter saying that he would like to DACA program in place.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And I've heard that preparations are being made for a massive fast is being planned in Washington, D.C., as well as protests, rallies and vigils across the country to bring attention on this issue. Tell us a little bit more about that if you could.

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: So, tomorrow (Sept. 5) about 40 or so of undocumented youth are going to get on a bus at 4 a.m. and go down to Washington, D.C. for a national day of action to defend DACA. So there will be a large rally, followed by some smaller actions. Then some youths are going to take part in tomorrow, and tomorrow also begins a weeklong fast that some organizations are organizing down in Washington, D.C. They're going to be fasting for five days to show their support for DACA and the moral crisis that taking away DACA would cause for communities.

I believe there's a week of action down there in Washington, D.C. So we're sending people down there for the whole week and they're going to do actions at members of Congress' offices and try to meet with members of Congress to keep pushing for a legislative solution.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You know, there's been a lot of attention on white supremacist groups – the KKK, the Nazis – a lot of hateful organizations who have been emboldened by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. Carolina, what are the links in your mind between this drive by the president to abolish DACA and white supremacy that seems to have come out of the shadows since the election?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: I think the effort to end DACA is just another step forward in the white supremacist agenda for this administration. A lot of people benefit from DACA, other people of color. By saying that you want to take away this program and potentially deport people, what you're saying is that you know, immigrants, especially immigrants of color, don't belong in this country and they need to be taken out. So I think the criticism of DACA, which is such an economically successful program, really has its roots in xenophobia and white supremacy.

For more information, visit United We Dream at unitedwedream.org; We Are Here To Stay weareheretostay.org; Defend Daca at defenddaca.com and on Twitter at twitter.com/hashtag/DefendDACA; Action Network at twitter.com/TheActionNet; CT Students for a Dream at ct4adream.org.

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