President Trump’s unexpected move to do business with the Democratic leadership in Washington on saving protections for the undocumented young people known as Dreamers reverberated throughout Queens.
The president reversed himself less than a week after he had decided to rescind the safety net for the Dreamers, who were brought to this country as children. His initial anti-immigrant announcement immediately ran into strong headwinds from Queens, the nation’s most ethnically diverse county.
In the latest development, Trump met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Wednesday night in Washington over Chinese food. The trio worked out a plan to have Congress make the DACA protections part of federal law and to pass an extensive border security package – minus Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico.
The first wave of reaction to Trump’s move to let the DACA program die came fast and furious from Queens.
The borough’s City Council members, the Queens’ congressional delegation and the governor denounced the efforts to strip 800,000 young people in the United States of their permits to attend school and work under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by the Obama administration.
About 42,000 New DACAYorkers from across the state are Dreamers, many of whom live in Queens. They all face possible deportation to countries many of them have never visited.
The president of Queens College, where undocumented students make up about 3 percent of the student body, said the country has benefitted greatly from the Dreamers’ talents and hard work.
“They have my assurance that my voice will be among those helping to persuade Congress to uphold support for the DACA community,” vowed Queens College President Felix V. Matos, a native of Puerto Rico.
Trump dodged the spotlight last week by asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to deliver the long-awaited pronouncement that the president had decided to end DACA. The son of a Scottish immigrant who has married two Czech immigrants, Trump then waffled by saying if Congress couldn’t decide the fate of DACA recipients over the next six months, he would have to revisit the issue.
But the Trump game plan has now changed and Queens is waiting for a bitterly divided Congress to work out a bipartisan solution to the pressing humanitarian problem.
The uncertainty is taking a serious toll on the borough’s immigrant community. Undocumented parents are keeping their children out of school, there is fear of ICE raids, and young people are battling both anxiety and depression.
But one Queens DACA recipient, who came from Mexico at age 2 and is now helping young immigrants who are adrift, stands ready for a fight.
“I’ve got a message for Trump and now for Congress, too,” he said. “We are here to stay.”