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Published on November 13, 2019

Eastern Hosts Press Conference in Support of DACA

Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Attorney General William Tong; Eastern students Yineira Lopez and Maria Elena Ruiz Gonzalez; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities

Attorney General William Tong

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Maria Elena Ruiz Gonzalez

Yineira Lopez

Yenimar Cortes

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a press conference on Nov. 12 in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 executive order signed by President Obama that grants temporary protected status to undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children. The press conference was held while the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the lawfulness of President Trump’s move to rescind DACA in 2017.

The press conference featured several speakers voicing support for the DACA program, including Connecticut Attorney General William Tong; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities; Eastern President Elsa Núñez; and Eastern students Maria Elena Ruiz Gonzalez, Yineira Lopez and Yenimar Cortes.

Eastern is home to 205 students who receive TheDream.US scholarships, a privately funded program founded by Donald E. Graham. The scholarship enables undocumented students from “locked out” states, or states that do not allow undocumented students to attend public college, to pursue a college education. Eastern was selected as one of two partner universities four years ago when the program began.

President Núñez commented on the success of the program and quality of the students. “DACA students have added immeasurably to our campus; they are proud to be at Eastern and they make their families proud at home. Eastern has been rewarded by this impressive group of young Americans working to make a difference in our communities and in our nation.”

DACA is a two-year work authorization permit for young undocumented immigrants that allows recipients to work legally and reside in the United States. Although the program was originally created as a temporary relief effort, today 800,000 young undocumented immigrants in the United States rely on the program to work and reside legally. The executive order was revoked by the Trump administration in June 2017; no new applications have been accepted since and the future of the program remains uncertain.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to end DACA was mean spirited and counterproductive, it seeks to push our neighbors and our friends into the shadows again, to instill fear instead of hope and confidence,” said Ojakian. “DACA students make our institutions stronger, make our state stronger, make our communities stronger, make our nation stronger, and as long as I am president of this institution, I will continue to support DACA students wherever I go.”

Attorney General Tong also reassured students and the Eastern community of his solidarity with the undocumented community. “A policy that completely ends DACA would have a profound effect on Dreamers and their families; the stakes could not be higher and that is why I am here with President Núñez and President Ojakian to say that we stand together as a firewall to protect and defend each and every one of you and your families.”

Student representatives also voiced their concerns of the future of DACA and spoke about what future steps they believe need to be taken. “I do hope that the DACA program continues because there were others that came after us, that didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the program,” said Gonzalez. “They are still in the shadows, they still don’t have forms of identification. I do know some scholars that don’t have DACA, but are part of the scholarship program, but unfortunately they can’t work because they don’t have a work authorization card.”

Other DACA recipients speaking at the press conference called for better legislation—one which will not put undocumented communities in danger and that will allow them to have a say in their future. “DACA has been very beneficial for many of us who found ourselves in the shadows,” said Lopez. “But I will say that with all the positive things that DACA has done for many of us, it has also limited many of us. It is a system that prevents us from moving forward, as we are only allowed to plan our lives two years at a time.”

The Supreme Court is expected to make its decision no later than June 2020. In the meantime , Eastern students and thousands of other DACA recipients across the nation await the decision that will drastically affect their futures.

Written by Vania Galicia

Categories: Equity/Diversity