Menendez rallies with DREAMers to save Obama-era program

Several dozen turned out at New Jersey City University, to support so-called DREAMers: undocumented children brought to the U.S. by their parents and granted temporary permits by President Obama to work or go to school here. Seventeen-year-old Erika Martinez arrived in New Jersey from El Salvador when she was only two. She has younger siblings who were born here and fears DACA will be revoked by President Trump.

“They are my family. I love them so much. And I guess that’s what gives me hope,” said Martinez, “I don’t want to be torn away from my family. So that’s why I keep fighting for DACA.”

Some 22,000 immigrants in New Jersey qualified for DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, 800,000 across the U.S. But the president is reportedly expected to rescind DACA within days, mobilizing activists across the nation, and here in New Jersey.

“And we’re here today to fight. We’re here because there is another attack coming out of our White House,” said Sara Cullinane, state director of Make the Road New Jersey, “And make no mistake, the same ideology that motivated men to march with torches in Charlottesville is motivating this attack on our immigrant youth, and we cannot afford to stand by and watch.”

“We worked for years to create this program. And I refuse to see it dismantled in the name of nativist fear-mongering,” said  Senator Bob Menendez, “We will not stand for that possibility. How stupid! How stupid! How cruel! How reckless is a policy that puts hardened criminals and law-abiding students in the same bucket for deportation!”

Donald Trump’s base has clamored for him to build a southern wall and deport unauthorized immigrants as he promised in the campaign. And while ICE has significantly stepped up enforcement, protection for DREAMers remained largely intact. But Trump advisor Stephen Miller reportedly opposes DACA and the president’s been noncommittal.

“It’s a very, very, tough subject,” the president said back in February, “We’re going to deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget. And I have to convince them that what I’m saying is right. But the DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me. Because I love these kids … I find it very, very, hard doing what the law says exactly to do. The law’s rough.”

Deporting DREAMers could take an estimated $1.5 billion chunk out of New Jersey’s economy, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective. Since 2013, DREAMers here have been able to pay in-state tuition rates and many of these students plan to attend college.

“In pre-K through 12, we invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in these kids. They’re bright. They’re talented,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, “These are productive citizens. They pay taxes. And they are part of the fabric that is the state of New Jersey.”

“We’ve lived here all our lives. And this is our home, and we don’t want to be taken back to our home countries,” added Martinez.

There is a clock ticking. The president is getting pressure from 10 state attorneys general. They’ve set a deadline: rescind DACA by Sept. 5 or they’ll file a lawsuit.