NEW HAVEN >> Representatives of Connecticut’s federal delegation say they don’t know where the Trump administration is going to land on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program protecting undocumented children brought to the U.S., but they gathered in Fair Haven Friday to promise their unwavering support.
“We know how many hearts are breaking. We know how many nerves are fraying,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “To have activists and advocates like you, who refuse to give up, it keeps us going.”
Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3) met with community advocates and DACA beneficiaries in the Fair Haven Community Health Center to collect stories to bring back to Washington D.C.
“Since Nov. 8 there’s been a palpable change in this community,” said FHCHC CEO Suzanne Legarde, adding that there are more stress-related symptoms present in those served by the health center than before the 2016 election.
The representatives arrived approximately 20 minutes late to the meeting, Murphy said, because they were meeting with Nury Chavarria, the undocumented Guatemalan woman with four children taking sanctuary in a church.
“This is a grievous miscarriage of justice,” Murphy said.
He said that, although Trump has had “13 different opinions” on DACA, the Connecticut delegation is worried over threats by 10 Republican Attorneys General to end the practice by suing the Trump administration.
Blumenthal said the senators would seek to get Republican lawmakers’ support, citing Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer at 80 years old, as a Republican who is amenable to working with Democrats on immigration policy.
“We can get this done, even in the age of Donald Trump,” Blumenthal said.
He said any program that deports immigrants is “fundamentally broken,” because those immigrants bring with them “talent and energy.” Murphy concurred that the economic reasoning is compelling: immigrants make for good manpower in the work force, and their skills are useful to America’s economic system.
“We’re forgetting our country’s economic history,” Murphy said. “Bring the smartest and most motivated people.”
DeLauro said it would be the activism of the people that saves DACA.
“Being vigilant is critical and activism is critical,” she said.
Although the House committee may support keeping anti-discrimination language in DACA, it could be stripped, she said.
“We’re going to fight like you know what,” DeLauro said.
Harp said New Haven is a welcoming and diverse city, and she expects to keep it that way, provided everyone follows the laws.
“New Haven is a city that welcomes new arrivals and defends the rights of all law-abiding citizens to stay as long as they like,” she said.
For about 30 minutes, the representatives heard some of the audience’s stories.
Co-founder of Connecticut Students for a DREAM Carolina Bartoletto shared her story of getting her college diploma but struggling to find work as an undocumented immigrant.
“DACA opened up a whole new world for me,” she said. Once she got a license “my whole world opened up.”
Erika Vergara, a DACA recipient and legal advocate, said however that “DACA’s not cheap.”
She said she had been the underpaid and exploited nanny, maintenance worker and cleaner before she was able to graduate. She said she cried when she received a license, because it was “a document legible to the state.”
Isabel Ceballos said the experience of growing up “in the shadows” made her feel shame, anger and fear.
“It’s my privilege to fight for those in the shadows,” she said. “When I saw DREAMers coming out on Facebook, I was inspired.”
One of those who spoke, a sophomore at Yale University, said she wants more than what DACA has to offer.
“Above all else, I encourage you to not make criminals out of my parents,” she said, because it was their sacrifice that brought her to the U.S.
“You know where we stand,” Murphy said. “We want to use every lever at our disposal for a comprehensive path to citizenship. It’s not satisfactory to divide up the undocumented population.”
A Southern Connecticut State University employee said she was puzzled at how easily remedied the shortage of bilingual teachers in Connecticut classrooms could be if a path to citizenship were made easier for undocumented students. One man said he knew the frustration of achieving high grades but having a dearth of internship and employment opportunities. And a woman in behavioral family therapy said clients of hers are afraid of going to health care appointments, should something happen.
A younger woman said she is bothered by the amount of vitriol directed toward young DACA recipients.
“We need to explain to people all the time why we’re fighting,” Murphy said. “We can’t assume people share our compassion.”