A DACA youth grows emotional during a rally at the state Capitol in support of the program.
Metropolitan Community College student, Zaida Mendez, says she woke up unsure what the day would bring, then learned President Trump has ended the program.
“I’m mad and I’m sad, but I’m not going to let that get to me,” Mendez tells those assembled on the steps of the Capitol. “I know so many DREAMers that are here in support and many family and friends who I know believe in us.”
The Trump Administration has rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program enacted through executive order by President Obama in 2012. A number of states, including Nebraska, challenged the constitutionality of enacting immigration reform through an act of the president, rather than through a law passed by Congress.
DACA provides legal status to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Estimates peg the total number of DACA youth in Nebraska at slightly more than 3,000. The tag, DREAMers, comes from a proposed legislation entitled Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.
About 200 people have gathered at the Capitol to show their support for DACA youth.
“These children and their families embody the values we cherish most and we should welcome them,” Crete Mayor Roger Foster says.
Foster says if DACA youth are forced to leave the country, it would be like a tornado hitting his community, taking the people and leaving the buildings.
“It would leave empty storefronts, empty houses, broken families, empty churches, and a community struggling with the effects of mass deportations,” according to Foster.
University of Nebraska – Omaha pre-law student, Linda Aguilar, says she came to America from Guatemala at six years old with her family. And though her family came to this country illegally, she soon developed hopes and dreams for her future.
“You see, as a child, you don’t understand what it means to be undocumented,” says Aguilar. “You don’t understand that you do not have the same rights as everybody else. Imagine living in a country all your life and not being able to work legally or go to college.”
The administration has given Congress a six-month grace period in which to approve a replacement.
Executive Director Emiliano Lerda of Justice for Our Neighbors of Nebraska says he has to believe Congress will act.
“Faith and votes is all we have,” according to Lerda. “So, we will have faith and people will vote to make sure that we hold our elected officials accountable and we tell them, right, what’s important to us as a state.”