In an effort to stop President Donald Trump from terminating the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin joined cities across the country in defending the importance of the program.
During the Mayors’ National DACA Day of Action, Soglin, in a news conference, addressed some of the economic misunderstandings about DACA recipients and the immigrant community.
DACA, first introduced by the Obama administration, allows undocumented students to work and school without the fear of being deported.
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If Trump chooses to eliminate DACA, Soglin said local government can’t do “a lot” in terms of enacting legislation to reverse that decision. But, he said the city would join other local efforts around the country to challenge Trump’s agenda.
“[Madison would] certainly join forces with local leaders, local attorneys, local organizations and those nationally in legally challenging any effort made to compromise the program,” Soglin said.
Soglin said he is determined to not let undocumented students be used as “pawns in a legislative agenda” by a “frustrated president.”
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DACA recipients and other immigrants bring economic value to the community, Soglin said.
He noted that DACA recipients are expected to contribute $9.9 billion dollars in tax contributions over the next four years to the country and contribute $433 billion to the gross domestic product over the next decade.
“We don’t just see the benefit in Madison and Dane County,” Soglin said. “We’ve got some very critical industries in Wisconsin where [DACA recipients] and other recent immigrants are making valuable contributions.”
Many community members expressed Soglin’s sentiment with their personal anecdotes.
Lauren Salzmann, director of youth programs at Centro Hispano, said many of the kids she works with didn’t feel wanted or respected by their country until they received DACA benefits.
For the first time, they felt like their voices were being heard, Salzmann said.
“At Centro, we are all about saying ‘sí se puede’ — yes you can, and DACA is a way of saying ‘sí se puede,’” Salzmann said.
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DACA recipient Alondra Quechol stressed the importance of DACA and how many “white coats and hard hats will be taken away.”
Salzmann echoed the sentiment by stressing how many DACA students help the community by going on to become doctors, teachers and nurses.
Juan Alvarez, another DACA recipient, said the program gave him — and more than 800,000 other recipients — the opportunity to be successful and achieve the American Dream.
“[DACA] is so important because immigration and citizenship go so unnoticed except for the person living it,” Alvarez said. “We can walk our days, but we know what the truth is and how much a piece of paper affects the trajectory of our lives in terms of success.”
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Quechol encouraged everyone to look into what it means to be a DACA student and what it would mean if all that was taken away.
In addition to keeping DACA, Salvador Carranza, president of the Latino Education Council, said it’s necessary for the state to pass resident tuition for undocumented students so they have the ability to go to college and have access to higher education.
“If we don’t give these kids the opportunity to contribute to our nation, we are all poorer for that,” Carranza said.