By Bill Parry
President Trump has reached an agreement with the Democratic leadership to back legislation that would protect 800,000 so-called Dreamers in Queens and the rest of the country from deportation.
After a dinner meeting in the White House Wednesday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint statement: “We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
Trump reiterated that a deal was underway Thursday morning when he told reporters in Washington, “We’re working on a plan for DACA” and said building his proposed wall with Mexico would not be part of the action, The New York Times reported.
“The wall will come later,” he said, despite some mixed signals earlier from the White House press security and Trump’s own tweets about the status of the wall.
Last week Trump decided to end the Obama administration policy that allowed the Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children, to work or attend school. He asked Congress to pass legislation within six months to resolve the issue or he would revisit it himself.
Trump’s decision to drop protections for Dreamers facing deportation sent a shudder through Queens last week.
Dreamers and their supporters marched through Jackson Heights calling on the Trump administration to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
The protest was organized by Make The Road New York, an immigrant rights organization with 21,000 members. Its goal was to send a clear message to Trump and Congress that the decision to rescind the program, which protects 42,000 New Yorkers from deportation, must not be rolled back.
“DACA has changed my life drastically, enabling me to obtain New York state identification, graduate college and be employed,” said Make the Road New York Power Project member and DACA recipient Yatziri Tovar, a 25-year-old who came to Queens from Mexico at age 2. “Even though I’m working two jobs to support my family and contribute to society, Donald Trump doesn’t care. He has decided that neither me nor my family matter to him, and that he’d rather play games with my life. I won’t allow this administration to attack me, my family, or my community, and use us as pawns for its hateful agenda. I’ve got a message for Trump — and now for Congress, too: We are here to stay.”
Jessica, a 24-year-old Corona resident and DACA recipient who did not want to use her last name, wanted desperately to march with Make The Road New York and its allies, but she was too busy studying. The first year student at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse came to the United States from Ecuador at the age of 2.
“I only know of Ecuador from stories my parents tell me and even those are fading from their memory,” she said. “I’ve been in Corona my entire life. I went to PS 14 and ate at Corona Pizza and the Lemon Ice King of Corona. My dad use to take us to Flushing Meadow Corona Park, where we would play soccer all of the time. He wanted us to be soccer superstars, but that didn’t work out.”
After graduating from Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, Jessica became a research assistant at Columbia University Medical Center in a program funded by the American Heart Association doing heart disease research. She also did work with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
“I want to work in internal medecine and practice in Corona, specifically, in one of the many areas that are underserved,” she said. “I feel the president has flip-flopped on the issue. That’s why it’s very urgent that Congress pass the Dream Act so we can all breath easier, so we can work on or education and our jobs.”
Jessica gained more faith in Congress after she took part with other Dreamers in a telephone conference call with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) last week.
“It was inspirational to me and it gave me hope that something would be passed,” she said.
The conversation worked both ways.
“I was inspired by Jessica’s story and her great contribution to Queens, New York and the United States,” Crowley said. “It’s important that Dreamers know we stand firmly behind them as President Trump and congressional Republicans seek an end to the DACA program, This is a top priority for me in Congress, and I will not stop until there is a permanent solutions for the Dreamers.”
In the meantime, Jessica is living in fear of deportation to a country she does not know.
“I fear I’ll be in class one day and hear from my mother that the authorities are at my home looking for me,” she said. “I feel I am in danger because I’ve given so much information about myself to qualify for DACA.”
She is not placated by reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not plan to turn over that information to ICE in order to begin deportations.
“I don’t feel relieved at all because the president has flip-flopped on so many issues,” Jessica said. “You see him change his mind.”
Tovar also had a clear message for Congress.
“Given the attacks from the White House, it’s time to pass a clean DREAM Act immediately — with a path to citizenship for all immigrant youth like me, and without any money to help Trump increase his attacks on our families through a senseless border wall and out-of-control immigration enforcement,” she said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr