“Time for Action, Not Words” on DACA, Say 17 Immigrant Rights Organizations to Government Officials

Posted: Sep, 08, 2017

Responding to President Trump’s decimation of the DACA program – the Obama program that provided legal status to young children brought to the country unlawfully by their parents – a diverse array of seventeen organizations that work with, or advocate for the rights of, immigrants in Rhode Island have sent letters to all state legislators and municipal leaders calling on them to help DACA recipients with the tools at their disposal.

The organizations said in separate letters to state legislators and municipal leaders that they were “heartened by the many strong condemnations of the President’s actions” from state and local leaders, but that “the time has now come for action, not just words” to protect those victimized by Trump’s “inhumane action.”

The letter to legislators noted that they had the opportunity to pass three bills pending in the General Assembly – and could do so as early as their upcoming special session this month – to provide protection to DACA students while the program remains in limbo:

            *  H-6021, which would generally bar schools and other “sensitive locations” from allowing ICE agents access to their facilities without a warrant, passage of which would give DACA students “at least some limited protection from the roundups that have been happening elsewhere.”

            * H–5237, which would treat DACA recipients as Rhode Island residents for purposes of qualifying for in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities, allowing them to continue their education even as their legal status remains in limbo. The letter noted: “We can’t condemn President Trump for refusing to treat DACA recipients as Americans if we refuse to treat them as Rhode Islanders.”

            * Passage of narrower versions of two bills, S-183 and H-5686, that would provide special driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. The groups urged that the bills be amended to specifically authorize licenses for DACA recipients, who currently qualify for driver’s licenses but will no longer be able to do so once their status expires under Trump’s DACA repeal.

            A separate letter to municipal leaders called on them to pass “comprehensive ordinances that would limit your cooperation and collaboration with immigration officials.” Earlier this year, the ACLU of Rhode Island shared with all municipalities a model ordinance that would do just that.

The two letters concluded by stating:

      The Trump Administration’s actions have only exacerbated the day-to-day fear and dread that already exists among the immigrant community. Therefore, if you are as appalled as we are at the federal Administration’s cruel actions against these innocent DACA recipients, we ask you to demonstrate your concern by taking . . . concrete steps . . . to protect them from the mean-spirited and heavy hand of the federal government.

The groups signing the letters were the ACLU of Rhode Island, Dorcas International Institute of RI, Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education, Cambodian Society of Rhode Island, Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center, College Visions, Direct Action for Rights & Equality, Economic Progress Institute, Fuerza Laboral, Latino Policy Institute, NAACP – Providence Branch, Providence Student Union, Providence Youth Student Movement, Refugee Dream Center, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rhode Island State Council of Churches, and Sojourner House.

The state’s Congressional delegation unanimously supports passage of legislation to codify the DACA program into law, but fate of such a proposal remains unclear.