U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) joined dozens of activists and students alike to speak in favor of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program in the midst of talk it could be repealed by President Donald Trump (R).
Menendez said in the event that the DACA program was abolished by Trump, it would be another instance of the president infringing on immigrant rights.
“Many of us feared that is elected, President Trump would trample on the rights of immigrants and now his administration is poised to end the Deferred Action Childhood programs that we all know as DACA,” began Menendez.
“DACA made is possible for 800,000 undocumented youth across America to come out of the shadows, to step into the light to pursue their dreams without fear of deportation. These children were brought to American through no decision of their own. They know no other home, the only flag that they pledge allegiance to is that of the United States.”
Menendez took another swipe at Trump by saying those who benefit from the DACA act are not criminal or “bad hombres,” adding that 22,000 people would be impacted here in New Jersey, causing the economy to take a $1.5 billion hit.
The senior Senator, who goes to trial on a slew of corruption charges on September 6th, continued on for several more minutes, calling any future action against DACA “stupid, cruel” and “reckless.”
Erica Martinez, a 17-year-old youth leader at Make the Road New Jersey, explained the positive impact DACA has had on her life.
“I was born in El Salvador 17 years ago and just after two years I was brought here to the United States. So while my younger sister and my younger brother are United State citizens, my mother, my older sister and I are not,” explained Martinez.
“I became DACA eligible two years ago and it was a moment where I felt recognized and I felt safe.”
Near the conclusion of the presser, Prieto spoke about the importance of the 2013 Dream Act, which allows residents with unlawful immigration statuses to pay in-state tuition at state colleges, reminding everyone “that this country was made of immigrants.”
“We made sure that children would be able to go to state universities, pay in-state tuition, that was almost crazy that they weren’t afforded that. We need to work more on that, we need to make sure there’s a path to be permanent residents and a path to citizenship because it’s the right thing.”
A Cuban born immigrant who helped pass a pro-DACA measure in the state Assembly back in February, Prieto told Hudson County View that it’s critical to keep the pressure on all our legislators regardless what Trump’s next move is.
Earlier this week, 1,850 leaders from around the country urged Trump to allow DACA to stand, although the president vowed to end the program during his campaign (h/t USA Today).
Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33), the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, SEIU 32BJ and the American Friends Service Committee were all in attendance at the rally.