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Brooklyn College Holds #SAVEDACA Demonstration

Professor Nicholas Rynearson urges students to organize and resist. PHOTO/ Zainab Iqbal
Professor Nicholas Rynearson urges students to organize and resist. PHOTO/ Zainab Iqbal

By Hannah Grossman and Zainab Iqbal

Published: September 14th, 2017

The front entrance of the Brooklyn College library was filled with students, faculty, and staff, who all gathered in protest last Tuesday, September 5th at 12:30 p.m. against President Donald Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

DACA policy, which was put into play by President Barack Obama in 2012, allows individuals who entered the United States when they were under the age of 18 to apply for a renewable two-year deferral from deportation, as well as the opportunity to apply for a work permit. DACA protects approximately 800,000 aspiring immigrants, referred to as Dreamers, from deportation. Tuesday’s announcement marked the end of the program, and no new DACA applications will be considered. Recipients with a permit that will expire before March 5th, 2018 are eligible for a two-year renewal.

Protests broke out across the country after the announcement, including the one outside of the BC library, which was initiated by The Brooklyn College Faculty Resist Collective. 

“This affects so many of our students who are trying to get an education to make their lives and their families’ lives easier,” said Tammy Lewis, a professor from the sociology department.

Brooklyn College is home to a number of Dreamers. However, the City University of New York (CUNY) has a policy to never ask students their status. With no official statistics and estimates recorded, the exact number of students that will be affected is unknown.

“These are Americans. They were raised here,” junior Brayan Delostrios said. “For someone to erase them and say they’re not American, I don’t think that’s right.” 

Alexandra Lewis, a professor from the music department, is the daughter of an immigrant. Her father came to the U.S. from Syria, and she expressed her regret that in today’s era her father’s citizenship request would be denied. 

“We have Dreamers here at Brooklyn College and they need to be helped,” Lewis said. “There could soon be an empty seat in your classroom.” 

The administration’s latest decision on DACA signaled the end of the Obama era of progressive values. “Today, it’s the Dreamers. Tomorrow it could be something else,” she said. “Freedom is in jeopardy. The values of American democracy are under siege.”

Classical cultures professor Nicholas Rynearson was also at the demonstration to defend the rights of undocumented students.

“You never know someone’s status,” he said. “I don’t know which of my students are documented, but it’s important to show support for all immigrants regardless of the political administration, especially one which has shown to be racist and Islamophobic.” Rynearson encouraged students to rise up, organize, and protest.

David Bloomfield, an education law professor, encouraged the student body to realize the power of contacting elected officials. “Everyone should know who their senators are, and also at the local level,” he said.

Those who oppose the new agendas from the Trump Administration do not have to remain a sitting duck until the 2020 elections. “The 2018 congressional elections will be very important in terms of the direction of the country and students should register and vote,” Bloomfield said.

Faculty and staff urged Brooklyn College to take a stand against removing DACA and many other aggressive policies, but they were forthcoming about CUNY’s limitations. “It’s difficult for CUNY to do anything to stop the government from enforcing customs and border patrol policy. But CUNY is doing a good job in offering free legal assistance,” Bloomfield said.  

“I think that this college should ensure that we are a sanctuary campus in name and in action,” said Alan Aja, a professor from the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies department. “The college needs to show the material and legal ways to support students who are the lifeline of this campus.” 

Students should contact CUNY Citizenship Now! to clear up their status and any threats to their continued enrollment. “You may not know your immigration status, but the government will know,” Bloomfield said.

In light of this new initiative, some students are more at risk than others. “Those who want to travel abroad might be stopped when returning to the United States, those who might apply for renewal for their DACA status might be rejected, and everyone else is at risk of losing protection in six months if Congress cannot come up with a solution,” Bloomfield said.

At the protest, faculty handed out pamphlets provided by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center that recommended, “If you are outside the country with advance parole, make sure to return right away.”

Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson was one of the 600 university presidents to sign a statement that advocated for DACA to continue.

 “We will do everything we can to protect our DACA students, who are an integral part of the fabric of Brooklyn College,” Anderson said.

President Anderson’s support was also reflected in a statement released by CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken. The Chancellor promised that CUNY will continue financial support for Dreamers, a group he regarded as “the best of our country’s values and traditions.”

Division across the right side of the aisle was voiced after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement on Tuesday, though the future of DACA remained on the chopping block. Ideology may reach across the political spectrum; however, Bloomfield recognizes an alarming nuance unique to the Trump White House. “The far right never had a presence at any other administration, now they have a seat at the table,” he said.

Resources and Information Provided by CUNY Citizenship Now!

Validity of Work Authorization Issued Under DACA

  • For individuals with either initial or renewal applications pending as of September 5, 2017, USCIS will continue to process those applications on a case-by-case basis.
  • DACA recipients with work authorization that will expire between now and March 5, 2018, will have until October 5, 2017 to apply for a two-year renewal.
  • DACA recipients whose work authorization expires on or after March 6, 2018 cannot get an extension, but will keep their benefit until their card expires.
  • DACA recipients whose work authorizations expired before September 5, 2017 and who did not apply to renew on or before September 5, 2017, cannot renew their DACA.

 Traveling

  • USCIS will no longer grant DACA recipients permission to travel abroad through Advance Parole.
  • For DACA recipients who have already been granted advance parole, but have not traveled, please speak to an immigration attorney about potential risks.

Validity of Social Security Numbers, Driver’s Licenses and State IDs

  • If you have not obtained a social security number, you should do so immediately.
  • Driver’s licenses or state identification cards issued with your DACA work authorization, will remain valid until your work authorization expires.

Enforcement Risk After DACA Expires

  • To date, the Department of Homeland Security’s position is that it will not proactively use information provided by DACA applicants for enforcement unless an individual presents certain security risks. If you have ever had contact with any law enforcement, please consult an immigration attorney about your individual risk.

For personal or legal assistance, call 212-652-2055, or email questions to citizenshipnowinfo@cuny.edu.

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