Hundreds of high school and college students from across the Madison area met at the State Capitol earlier today with one message: Preserve DACA.
They chanted phrases such as “Up, up with education. Down, down with deportation” as they approached the State Capitol.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is a program that allows the children of undocumented immigrants in the United States to live and work without being deported. Former President Barack Obama began the policy back in 2012, and it remains in effect today despite numerous court challenges and the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal it.
The Trump administration began trying to end the program two years ago, but court orders have kept it in place. But if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Trump administration, people currently protected by DACA will face deportation. That could affect about 700,000 people in the United States, and roughly 8,000 people in Wisconsin.
Many of these people, like one protester who only identified herself as Karen, have lived in the United States for most of their lives and barely remember the country their parents emigrated from.
“My body was born in Mexico, but my soul is American,” said Karen. “My dad had a job up here, so he would come back and forth. It got to the point where I no longer knew him as my dad but as Santa Claus because I would only see him on Christmas and then he would leave. My family had enough and so my mom decided to join my father up here. At the time I was three and my sister was a few months old.”
Karen told the crowd that her status prevented her from acquiring some scholarships, which is indicative of a larger problem: DACA does not provide a path to citizenship.
But while the Trump administration is making moves to end DACA, the policy itself remains popular. For example, A Marquette Law School Poll from October found that a majority of Wisconsin voters favor keeping DACA in place. State Representative Melissa Sargent, a Democrat from Madison, echoed that support during the rally today.
“We have each of us come from a different place on this Earth to bring ourselves to a place where our families and our dreams can be stronger,” said Sargent. “Regardless of how we got here, we know we are stronger when we are together. Your voices matter, you bring strength to our state, and it is vital that you raise them up.”
Despite widespread public support, DACA has come under fire from some Republicans like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said that Obama overstepped his power by implementing DACA through an executive order, and that DACA recipients took jobs away from American citizens.
The Supreme Court is projected to release their opinion in spring of next year.