In response to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, University of Wisconsin students and community members organized a rally in protest of the national policy change Saturday.
DACA, which came in effect in 2012 through an executive order by former President Barack Obama, awards nearly 800,000 recipients the ability to live, work and go to school in the United States.
Karen Peréz-Wilson, one of the organizers of the march, said the main focus of the Defend DACA march was to show support for DREAMers, a nickname for the recipients of the DACA program, who would be affected by these policy decisions.
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Peréz-Wilson, however, emphasized the march was for everyone affected by immigration laws because immigration is a worldwide issue.
“A lot of us have that misconception and idea that this is just for our Latinx community and an issue for them, and that is not the case,” Peréz-Wilson said.
The march began at the center of Library Mall and continued down State Street, where marchers to the front of the Capitol building, where several DREAMers shared their experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant.
One speaker, who only wished to be identified as Maria, shared her ambitions to get an education, an opportunity that did not exist for her before the DACA program.
“Imagine being brought to America at 15 months old, growing up and attending school, making friends, cultivating your passions, only to become 17 years old and being told that you could no longer pursue your dreams because you are illegal,” Maria said.
While the DACA program enables its recipients to be eligible for work permits, driver’s licenses and college enrollment, it does not give them a pathway to citizenship.
Still, Erika, another DACA recipient, said without this program, she wouldn’t have a social security number.
“It’s a shame to see that it appears to be coming to an end. It has given me a ton of opportunities, getting my job, being able to help out my parents with some bills, earning my own money,” Erika said.
Recent surveys have shown increasing support for DACA.
According to a Politico poll, 58 percent of eligible voters believe that DREAMers should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain qualifications. In contrast, only 15 percent believe that they should be removed or deported.
In light of the decision to end DACA, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank released a statement condemning the action.
In the statement, Blank said the UW administration would not provide immigration status for any students.
“[DREAMers] work hard, they pay taxes, and they are important to the vibrant life of the campus community,” Blank said. “To threaten them now with deportation is unfair and, indeed not in our country’s best interest as businesses in Wisconsin and beyond continue to struggle to find workers in almost all occupations.
Blank also said she will communicate directly with Congress in an attempt to come up with a better solution than ending the DACA program.
As Congress comes to a decision over the DACA program in the coming months, Erika said the DACA program makes a big difference for immigrants who are “trying to live honest lives.”
“Even in the smallest way it’s helping us [get] by, you know just being a human here and being treated a little bit better than what our parents are used to,” Erika said.