Members of Marshall University’s Young Democrats and Students for a Democratic Society organized “Walk to Defend DACA,” a protest against President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Derek Zelkowski, president of Marshall’s Young Democrats, said they wanted to show that the opposition to the DACA repeal is very present in this town, even though it’s deemed a conservative area, and that they’re willing to get out and stand for it.
“We’re just here to show that at least some of Marshall University, at least some of Huntington, is strongly opposed to the repeal of the DACA,” Zelkowski said. “We don’t want our fellow citizens being deported when they’ve spent their whole lives here and they know no other country aside from the United States.”
Nearly 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants are currently being protected by the program known as DACA. The federal government’s DACA program was created through executive action by President Barack Obama in August of 2012. The program that protects hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants, also known as “Dreamers,” is now being challenged by President Donald Trump.
Hunter Reedy, parliamentarian of Young Democrats, said they didn’t hear of any other groups doing a protest against the repeal of DACA, so they knew they had to step in and make it happen.
“If nobody else is going to do it, we’ll show some initiative because there’s a lot of people who support protecting DACA, so we may as well join all of those people together,” Reedy said. “One person starts it, and so many people resolve from it.”
Some Huntington residents, like Barbara Garnett, said that no human is illegal. Garnett said that she is in favor of immigrants’ rights and believes that everyone deserves to be here.
“We all got here somehow,” Garnett said. “I think that it’s a shame that people who have come here as young children, who only know this country, are being asked to go to another country where they don’t know anybody and don’t even know the language sometimes.”
DACA allows unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 to stay in the U.S. to study or work. The program requires they meet certain criteria, such as having a high school diploma or GED or enrollment as a high school student. The program denies those with serious criminal records who may be threats to national security.
Although DACA gives those approved a work permit and a chance at opportunity in America, Garnett said they are still being cut short of the benefits they can receive in the U.S.
“They pay social security but they don’t qualify for social security, for example,” Garnett said. “For them to be asked to leave, it’s just ridiculous. The economic benefit of having them here far outweighs the benefit, if there is any, of making them leave.”
Destiny Carte, recent Marshall graduate, said that losing the “Dreamers” would negatively affect the country because they positively contribute to our society.
“A huge portion of people who are protected by DACA are healthcare workers and very skilled people, so there’s no point in sending them back unnecessarily when they’ve obeyed the law,” Carte said. “Focus on keeping our country safe in other ways. Repealing DACA isn’t making our country safer, it’s making the rest of the world hate us even more.”
Members of Marshall’s Young Democrats and Students for a Democratic Society said they want those affected by the possible DACA repeal to know that they are standing with them.
“Whatever loved ones you have: your family, friends, just hold them close,” Zelkowski said. “It’s uncertain times, but as Americans together, we have to get through it.”