More than a hundred people gathered on the campus of Eastern Connecticut State University Tuesday to protest President Trump’s decision to end protections for undocumented young people.
The university hosts 105 students who are recipients of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the two-year permit that allows them to study or work legally in the U.S.
Dr. Elsa Nunez, ECSU’s president, was emotional as she addressed the rally.
“I was with my family Labor Day Weekend, and I said to my husband -- I don’t want to go to work tomorrow,” she said. “I just don’t want to go and have to face the students to have to now struggle for six months to fight for what they deserve.”
Trump’s announcement delays the end of DACA for six months with an instruction to Congress to address immigration reform.
Sophomore Daniel Castillo is a DACA recipient. He was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was three. He said the current uncertainty is already taking a toll on him and others.
“We’re so far away from family, so we don’t really know where we can seek help, especially since we are undocumented,” he told WNPR. “Our experience is so unique that we don’t know who to trust or not. People decide to just bottle it all up themselves and deal with it themselves, and it affects their personal lives, it can affect their academics, and we don’t want that.”
Eastern stresses that no public funds are being used to support undocumented students as they are not eligible for Pell grants or state aid. And the university says no Connecticut students are being displaced by their presence.
“We’re not the people that are depicted on the news,” said Monica Torrijos, who’s at Eastern majoring in criminology and psychology. “We aren’t here to take people’s jobs. We’re here to work, we’re here to grow the economy, but at the same time we are human beings. We deserve the respect and the humanity that other people do as well.”
Torrijos urged people to write to their elected representatives on behalf of DACA recipients.
Greg Romanovsky is head of New England's American Immigration Lawyer's Association. He said the elimination of DACA will leave most of the recipients with little recourse.
"For the vast majority of the Dreamers, there will be no other options," he said. "Instead, they will be left completely exposed."
The program required undocumented young people to apply and register with U.S. immigration officials. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who made the administration's announcement Tuesday, said Congress has until March 18 to legislate a potential continuance of the program.
WBUR's Shannon Dooling contributed to this report.