By Mohamed Alim Hassim
QUEENS, NEW YORK — Of the 800,000 young immigrants who are at at risk of deportation following the rescinding of the DACA (Deferred Action for Children Arrivals) program by President Donald Trump, there are some 1266 Guyanese, 3100 Trinidadians, 3500 Jamaicans, and hundreds of other Caribbean nationals.
Sherry, a young Guyanese mother, is one of the beneficiaries of this program, and on Saturday (Sept 16th), at a rally in Richmond Hill, Queens, to defend DACA, she spoke of her fear of losing her rights in this country and being sent back to Guyana.
The DACA rally was organized by several community organizations including the Shri Trimurti Bhavan, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, the Indo-Caribbean Association (ICA), Trinidadians and Tobagonians USA, New American Voters Association (NAVA), the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC), among others.
Sherry told the gathering that when she found out about DACA, she felt as though she had found a life savior. With her acceptance into the program, she could finally go to college, support her family and live without fear.
“Now, with DACA ending I have to rethink my life,” she said, fighting back tears. “I am a mother of three. My biggest fear is that one day ICE will come and take me away from my family like they did my brother.”
Now a member of an organization called DRUM (Desis Rising Up & Moving), Sherry vows to continue to fight for the DACA program and for all undocumented immigrants.
Sherry was one of many speakers at the rally, which was held at the corner of Liberty Avenue and 133rd St, outside Sybil’s Restaurant and Bakery.
The rally kicked off with a march from 132nd Street to 133rd Street. Participants carried a banner with the hashtag #DEFENDDACA, and chanted, “What do we want? Justice! Immigrant rights are? Human rights! The people united, will never be defeated!”
Attorney-at-law Aminta Kilawan-Narine, co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progessive Hindus, chaired the rally, noting, “We are gathered here today as community leaders, as faith leaders, as grassroots organizers, to send a loud and resounding message to those who are out there trying to divide us, trying to tell us that some of us are better than others.”
Setting the tone for the event, she gave a brief outline of what led to the rally. “On September 5th of this year the Trump administration formally announced that it was going to end the DACA program, and that will place an expiration date on 800,000 individuals known as dreamers,” Kilawan-Narine stated. “They entered the country as children but without documents. DACA came about because activists from across the country including some who are here today – and dreamers themselves – fought long and hard to achieve it.”
Now, she told the crowd, little by little, what was achieved through those efforts, is gradually being undone “unabashedly”.
Kilawan-Narine argued, “The children who benefited from DACA are being used as scapegoats by the Trump administration. The administration’s move is nothing less than racism disguised as patriotism. We have to continue to speak up as a community; otherwise we are going to be overlooked. We need to come together as a community to show that immigrant rights are important.”
Dr Dhanpaul Narine, community activist, educator and President of the Sri Trimurti Bhavan, who was instrumental in organizing the rally, thanked participants for coming out, and the 106th Precinct community affairs department for granting permission for the demonstration, at short notice.
“We are calling on the Government to grant citizenship to all the DACA students. Some have been here for over 20 years and they know of no other country than this country. We call for them to be given citizenship with all the rights and obligations that follow citizenship,” Dr. Dhanpaul stated.
He noted that this should be done with haste and the students who benefit from DACA must not be held hostage for political reasons. Dr. Narine wants Republican and Democratic lawmakers to waste no more time in coming together to work on a legislation that will save the DACA program.
Mr Ashook Ramsaran, President of the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) noted that “IDC wants the Government to keep DACA in place, and even do better for the dreamers.” He argued, “DACA is a bridge to the future; do not close this bridge. Dreamers help America to be a better country.”
Ramsaran noted that the United Nations charter on human rights mandate that all persons be treated with dignity and respect and “dreamers deserve no less.”
“It is un-American to selectively deprive children of education and opportunity. Keep DACA in place. It is the sensible, humane and decent thing to do. Home is where the heart is; this is their home. Let’s honor that promise made to the Dreamers,” he urged.
Dr. Ashford Maharaj of T&T USA said his organization stands firmly behind the DACA students and those who are waiting to be accepted as DACA students. He listed the number of Trinidadians, Guyanese, Jamaicans and others who are likely to be sent home if nothing is done and noted “We cannot let this happen.”
Other speakers include Mr Harpreet Toor of the Sikh community; Ms Aliya Latif of the New York City Comptroller’s Office; Mr Will Depoo of DRUM; Mr Dilip Nath of NAVA; Community activist Mr Richard David; Attorney at law Ms Hettie Powell; Mr Jagpreet Singh of Chhaya Community Development Corporation; Mr Osborne Hart, candidate for Mayor of New York City; and Mr. Darrel Sukhdeo.