With their voices echoing in the mostly-empty gymnasium at Jose Marti School in Union City, Rep. Albio Sires and State Sen. Brian Stack issued an appeal to The White House earlier this month to reverse an executive order that would deport the children of undocumented immigrants (called “Dreamers”).
President Donald Trump in early October issued the order that would undo some of the protections his predecessor Barack Obama had given to children brought to the United States by their parents.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) allowed individuals who entered the country as minors and remained here illegally to receive renewable two-year periods of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible to work. As of this year, an estimated 800,000 individuals called “Dreamers” have enrolled in the DACA program.
“DACA recipients are our neighbors, friends and colleagues,” Sires said, whose congressional district includes portions of Hudson County including sections of Jersey City, Bayonne and nearly all of the towns in North Hudson with large Hispanic populations. “They are students, doctors, engineers and leaders in our military who are dedicated to our nation.
“Since its launch in 2012, DACA has helped hundreds of thousand of young people come out of the shadows without fear of being separated from their loved ones and sent away from the only country they call home.”
President Trump rescinded the policy in an executive order issued on Sept. 5. The change will not go into effect until March 2018, giving time for Congress to develop a policy to address these individuals.
Trump’s order could result in mass deportations. The act threatens people who know no other home but America. Some reportedly don’t even speak the native language of their parent’s homeland.
Sen. Stack, who is also mayor of Union City, represents nearly half of Jersey City, all of Union City, Weehawken, and Hoboken. He and Sires advocated the election of Democrat Phil Murphy for governor on Nov. 7, saying Murphy had promised to establish state protections for these children, effectively turning New Jersey into a sanctuary state. Murphy has promised to create an Office of Immigrant Protection to provide legal counsel to those who need help and have no place to turn.
As they spoke, the echo of voices rose in the corridors of the building, from students for whom this was an ordinary school day. Some of these students may well be affected if Trump’s executive order is not lifted.
These kids might find themselves shipped back to countries from which their parents fled violence and poverty to try to make sure their families had better opportunities in the U.S.
Stack and Sires – accompanied by Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, West New York Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez, Union City Commissioner Maryury A. Martinetti and Jose Marti School Principal Ruby Baez – made their case for protecting the kids and placed their hopes on state intervention if Murphy is elected on Tuesday.
Stack said while undocumented immigrants who commit crimes in the United States should not be protected, most of those who come to the U.S. are looking for a better life.
“They are hard working people who are looking to make a living here,” he said, noting that historically, the United States has been “a melting pot” where immigrants have come.
Hudson County in the center of the issue
Union City is overwhelmingly populated by immigrants. Jersey City, meanwhile, is considered as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States.
Sires called Trump’s executive order to end DACA a “reprehensible decision,” which is “inhumane and devastating” for families and communities across the country.
“President Trump’s actions target nearly a million hardworking, law-biding people who were brought here as young children,” Sires said, “who are growing up in the same playgrounds, schools and neighborhoods as our own kids.”
New Jersey has about 22,000 people who fit this profile, and Sires said Murphy has made a commitment to protect them. Quoting Murphy, Sires said, “They are just as American as our own children; they grew up here, have attended our public schools, and deserve every opportunity to continue their education, get a job and contribute to our society.”
DACA has been credited with expanding the work force and reducing the number of undocumented immigrants living in poverty. To be eligible for the program, a person must not have committed a felony or a serious misdemeanor.
“In repealing DACA, the president is also hurting our economy and our national security while diverting critical law enforcement efforts that should be focused on those who pose a true danger to public safety,” Sires said.
“America was built on the hard working immigrants and our diversity is part of the foundation of our nation and something that should be celebrated,” Sires said, taking aim at his colleagues in Congress as well. “It is long past time for Congress to step up and protect the millions of families that will be torn apart because of this inhumane decision.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.