Around 1000 people gathered at the Rhode Island State House, most of them as part of a march from Burnside Park, to protest President Donald Trump‘s revocation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Trump’s cruel and racist decision leaves 800,000 Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, with an uncertain future. Those attending the Defend DACA RI rally and march want the status of these young people protected, and they want comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path towards citizenship or permanent resident status for all undocumented Americans.
The march was organized by the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities (CASO) with support from the Providence Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC), Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition (BIRC) and local community based organizations.
Attending the march were United States Representative David Cicilline, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin, Rhode Island Representatives Grace Diaz and Aaron Regunberg and Providence City Councilors Sabina Matos, Carmen Castillo and Nirva LaFortune.
However, no politicians were invited to speak at the rally. Instead, we heard from four Dreamers, a documented ally, immigration attorney Deborah Gonzalez and Tatiana Hall, a leader in the Providence Student Union.
First up, scenes from the march from Burnside Park.
“This week has been a very tortuous week for several countries. There have been some hurricanes in the Caribbean, we have hurricanes hitting the United States. We have the biggest hurricane that hit us on Monday, and it was Hurricane Trump,” said Marta V. Martínez, chair of CASO, by way of introduction.
“My parents, sister and I immigrated to the United States in search of opportunities and a safer environment that a violence troubled country. From an early age my mother taught me that hard work, a love for God and caring for others is essential in order to positively contribute to society. However, as I grew up, I came to the dark realization that exemplifying these values is not enough in a society where gender, skin color, immigration status fuel prejudice in a cycle of poverty and disadvantage for those under-represented…
“Trump’s decision to end DACA this past week directly prevents me from becoming the physician advocate I aspire to be. Without DACA, I, and roughly 70 other medical students, cannot work in the United States and therefore cannot continue our medical training upon graduating from medical school.
“Coming to this country was not an easy choice. Simply put: It was paramount to our survival. Even so, America, the country we chose to adopt as our own, continually rejects us. We struggle to make the government see that we too are human beings, who deserve to be treated with dignity. As undocumented people we wake up every day and endure disdain, discrimination, xenophobia, and the hope that maybe one day, we will be able to live in peace, continue to be able to contribute to this country and be recognized as American…”
“I don’t really want to share my story of being an undocumented immigrant. I think y’all probably have all heard very similar stories of young folks who came to the United States and are practically American, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m kind of tired of that narrative and I’m kind of tired to have to sell the dignity of undocumented immigrants by how American I’ve become, or by how much I’ve been able to achieve or by how much I’ve been able to produce in this country…
“I’m here because I’m standing up for human dignity, for migrant dignity and undocumented immigrant dignity…
“Yes DACA was repealed, but DACA was never meant to be a permanent protection… Right now we have the opportunity – you, the American public – you, citizens – have the opportunity to tell Congress that we are not taking any crumbs that only protect Dreamers like me. I’m asking you to say, “no’ to any compromises that further militarizes the border, any compromises that further increases mass raids in our community, mass raids in our parent’s work place.
“And I’m here to tell you that I am not any more worthy of permanent protection than my parents are, than migrant workers are… regardless if you overstay your Visa, if you cross the border.”
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as one of the most unique demonstartions of freedom in the history of this state,” said Dreamer Javier Juárez. “Yes freedom. This is what this rally is about. The freedom that the world envies us for. The freedom to become whatever we want to be in life. The freedom to let us march in the streets to let us protest the unfair decisions that our government has made. That is America.
“I am one of 800,000 DACA recipients who has climbed the steps of the American social ladder, to uplift our families from poverty, only to have it sawed off by bigotry and racism. The broken immigration system has brought 800,000 people out of the shadows and we will not go back.”
“I’d like to start by saying that not all undocumented individuals are Latino, as myself. Black lives matter. LGBTQ lives matter. Refugee lives matter. Women’s lives matter… I came to the US when I was 8 years old and I’ve lived most of my life in Providence, Rhode Island and I call this my home. I went to elementary school here, middle school here, high school here and I also got to university here and I recently graduated last year from URI. DACA only protects 800,000 of us. But DACA doesn’t protect my mom. DACA doesn’t protect my undocumented neighbors and DACA, as we all knew, was temporary as well. When DACA was repealed I was scared, but I was mostly pissed off. I was disappointed that my basic human rights are used as political pawns and is part of a big political agenda that is rooted in white supremacy and hatred.”
“Attorney General jeff Sessions lied to the public when he said that DACA provided legal status,” said Deborah Gonzalez, is the director of the Immigration Clinic at Roger Williams University. “DACA never provided legal status. DACA only provided temporary reprieve from deportation. It never provided legal status.
“He lied to us when he said that DACA recipients receive social security benefits. That is an absolute lie. DACA recipients who work, who have paid into the social security system, will never see a dime of the money they paid in until they become lawful permanent residents.
“He lied when he said the DACA program caused an influx of immigrants in 2014 and 2015. That was legally impossible for that to happen as DACA applicants only qualify for DACA if they’ve been living in the United States since 2007. That was an absolute blatant lie in all of our faces.
“We need to call our politicians out. They are not going to stand here and lie to us!”
“I am speaking right now because it is my responsibility to use my voice and represent those who are not present and on their behalf just say how much they all, and I, appreciate everyone coming together as a community to show support for those both directly and indirectly affected by the current actions taken in regards to DACA…
“Recently I have been realizing the importance of us people coming together when we feel incapable of making a change in the law or in our society… To those who will be directly affected by the changes in DACA I want you to know that you are still here. And you will be here to stay because you are worthy, you are intelligent, you are capable, you are the definition of a fighter – all those sacrifices you and your family have made were for a reason and that reason is not to leave it all behind.”
“It feels like everything is falling apart,” said Tatiana Hall, a leader in the Providence Student Union. “Natural disasters in every corner, unmasked hate groups tormenting people of color, and a president who continually tries to steal human rights, including ending DACA and attacking immigrants again…
“This Summer, after the tragic news of Charlottesville, a group of students got together and decided that enough was enough. We needed to let everyone know that we were fed up. We are fed up of all the hate. We are fed up of all the bigotry, the fascism, the racism and the silence.
“As a low-income queer youth of color, Trump’s policies continue to affect my community. His policies place fear in our hearts for not only our well being but the well being of everyone around us. It’s time to take a stand with our community. Let’s start by calling it what it is and calling out the repressive systems around you and your community.”
Marta V. Martínez, wrapping it up:
Here’s all the speeches at the State House again, in a wider shot: