About 230 demonstrators marched on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional office in Hicksville on Saturday to protest the end of the lifeline program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and called on the state to stand in solidarity with affected immigrants.
The march took place just days after the Trump administration announced it would rescind the program. Some DACA recipients could lose their status as soon as Oct. 5th.
The march was organized by advocacy groups including the Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates (LIISA) and the Long Island Jobs with Justice (LIJWJ).
Cuomo threatened to sue the Trump administration if they moved to rescind the program, which currently protects about 800,000 individuals from deportation.
And, on Sept. 6, Cuomo and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did just that, filing the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York. They had the backing of co-plaintiffs Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District Of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
“Our elected officials need to do everything they can for the immigrant population,” Victoria Daza, an immigration organizer for LIJWJ, said. “We do commend Governor Cuomo for taking a stance, but we’re asking for more.”
Across Long Island, there are approximately 10,000 DACA recipients, immigration advocates say. DACA grants Dreamers the ability to work legally, apply for a driver license, and a temporary reprieve from deportation.
Nelson Melgar, a DACA recipient since its inception and aide to state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), stood with other DACA recipients and advocates to push the state to act.
He said that the program has allowed him to work and drive legally, as well as “have a life with dignity.”
“The state should pursue the lawsuit against the federal government’s effort to stop DACA and work to keep families together,” Melgar said.
Brenda Madrid, 20, is another DACA recipient who first signed up for the program in 2012 when she was still in high school.
Madrid, like many Dreamers, fear the disastrous consequences if Congress fails to replace the program with any meaningful legislation within the next six months, before the program completely expires.
“I was able to feel like an ordinary citizen,” Madrid said. “I won’t be able to provide for my family. Where does that leave us?” Madrid said.
Advocates and Dreamers are seeking a legislative solution like the DREAM Act to replace DACA and provide a reliable pathway to citizenship. However, since 2001 when it was first introduced, the DREAM Act has failed to pass through Congress.
“Without something that isn’t temporary, we’ll always feel insecure,” Madrid said, “I’m not sure if six months is enough time.”