Young undocumented students in Connecticut say they’ll continue to fight for the security of their communities, despite the increased threat of deportation.
Young people who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children in the past have been able to qualify for the DACA program -- deferred action for childhood arrival -- which is supposed to protect them from detention or deportation for each two-year period that they register.
But stepped-up immigration action under the Trump administration has seen cases of DACA recipients being detained in other parts of the country.
“It’s a different time, it’s a tough time. It’s definitely a scarier time than we’ve had in the past. But we’re here today to let everyone know we’re not going back in the shadows,” said Camila Bortoletto, co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream, or C4D -- a group that advocates for young undocumented residents.
There are some 8,500 DACA recipients in Connecticut, but C4D's Eric Cruz Lopez said many of them are now questioning their status.
“DACA for a lot of undocumented immigrants meant relief, it meant protection, it meant something -- it meant a win," Lopez said. "But that doesn’t mean anything anymore, right? As we see DACA recipients being picked up, that two-year relief of deportation doesn’t mean anything to anybody anymore.”
Lopez said some young people who might qualify for DACA for the first time are being given legal advice not to apply until the future of the program is clearer. Others who are trying to renew their status find that their applications take months longer than expected to process, sometimes leaving them without protection.
Dan Barrett of the ACLU in Connecticut said more aggressive guidelines for ICE agents under the new administration are raising questions about preserving basic civil liberties for undocumented people.
“Profiling on the basis of the color of one’s skin -- that is what we fear the most," Barrett said. "That what we saw in the last decade in Arizona, some of the most outlandish things that happened here, will happen here in Connecticut. We want very much to avoid that happening.”
Immigrant rights groups say they’re busy organizing community defense projects in many of the larger cities in the state, as well as advocating for sanctuary policies from civic leaders.