The federal plan to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in six months, would impact nearly 1,200 people in Michiana and 10,000 people statewide. Michiana nonprofits hosted a rally urging Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski to support protection for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Executive Director of the South Bend nonprofit La Casa de Amistad, Sam Centellas said the message is simple.
“We wanted to be here when Jackie Walorski’s staff walked into work this morning,” Centellas said, “We want them to get to work for the constituents here in Indiana. To push for immigration reform to push for the dream act. To push for protection for citizens in the area that include pathways to citizenship. “
Centellas said DACA advocates have a battle ahead of them to garner a permanent solution for DACA recipients, or “DREAMers”, that are now in limbo.
“We’re an immigrant nation, it’s always been hard for immigrants. We can’t now turn them away,” he said, “We have to make it easier for them, we have to let them in, we have to give them the ability to stay, to keep their families together, it’s important. The fabric of our society, that’s what’s at stake.”
An estimated 1,200 DREAMers live in Michiana, and regional community groups, including La Casa de Amistad and Indivisible Indiana District 2, organized the rally outside of Walorski’s Mishawaka office. They urged Walorski to co-sponsor the Dream Act.
Attorney Rudy Monterrosa from South Bend works on immigration cases. He said people must make their voices heard.
“I think ever since DACA passed or the opportunity was afforded, more people started coming out and working and identifying themselves,” Monterrosa said, “And weren’t afraid to say, I came here as a child, undocumented, and now I’m doing something good for my community.”
Monterrosa said this ‘coming out of the shadows’ built political will for the program in the larger community.
“Now we realize that Joe, who plays soccer with our friend, or Maria, who’s working at the office is a DREAMer and is a human like you or I,” he said.
Many of these DREAMers attended the rally.
Like Lisette Aleman from Chicago, who was born in Mexico.
Aleman is 20, a student at Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, and studies graphic design and communications. She said she came to the United States when she was six. She didn’t know she was was NOT a legal resident until her sophomore year of high school.
“And then that’s when I realized that I would have to work extra harder than the other people because if I didn’t,” she said, “I wouldn’t have any choice but to drop out of college because there were no resources for me to pay it, or just work without permission.”
Aleman earned a full scholarship. She said DACA helped in another way.
“Well the biggest benefit is to not be afraid to walk out on the street, with DACA, I feel like I’m protected,” Aleman said.
Aleman said she is starting to become afraid of what could happen.
Universities in the region extended their support for students. Indiana University South Bend chancellor Terry Allison said IUSB offered counseling for students when the decision was made to terminate DACA.
“We certainly are doing everything we can to support them, but I think we need to back up and really ask, Did these young people do anything wrong,” Allison said, “And I think the answer is clearly no. They’re doing everything they can to comply with what the government has asked them and we should support them.”
The University of Notre Dame released a statement that it plans to continue financial support of DACA students and will maintain students’ enrollment. The university offered to provide expert legal assistance if necessary.