Scenes from the Effort to #DefendDACA in New York

Loredana Urzica
September 24, 2017

Update: on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, President Trump announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, impacting nearly 800,000 young people who were brought to America as children.  SparkAction will share information and calls to action from organizations and coalitions across the country. We stand with the Dreamers and call on Congress to enact bipartisan legislation to make DACA law.


New York City, August 30 - More than 1000 people marched in New York on Wednesday, August 30, to defend the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The program provides temporary protection from deportation and a pathway to a work permit and social security number, which allow young people to work, attend college and qualify for financial aid for school.

To be eligible, a young person must have come to the U.S. before his or her 16 birthday and be under the age of 31 as of June 2012. Beneficiaries cannot have been convicted of a felony or pose a threat to national security or public safety. They must apply to renew their status every two years.

DREAMERSSince it was enacted by President Obama in 2012, some 800,000 young people, or "Dreamers," have participated. Contrary to some misleading news reports, none of these young people has a felony and none of them are violent criminals. They are in school, training, work or the military.

The current administration has vowed to end DACA, and potentially deport the young people who participate—many of whom have been here since infancy. To raise awareness, #DefendDACA events like this have been held in communities across the country in recent weeks.

I spoke with one of the organizers of the rally, Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of the nonprofit Make the Road. He said he believed the gathering sends a strong signal that DACA program must be protected.

“Today we are here not only to march, but to say very clearly to the President Trump that we are here and we intend to stay. This march is to protect the DACA program, which helped thousands of immigrants. At any moment, that right can be taken from us,” he said.

“We are saying that if the program ends, this means a fight with the Latino community and the immigrant community at large” he added.

Javier was among hundreds of young people who gathered at Columbus Circus and marched for more than two hours, standing up to defend DACA.

One of the participants, Eliana Fernandez came to the United States as a child and started to build her future here. She is a student and mother, and recently bought a house. “DACA has changed my life, it has given me an identity to get out of the shadows. I graduated from college and now I attend grad school,” she said.  

DACA1Her words echoed the feelings of many of the Dreamers, who explained how important the program is for them, and that it gave them hope and purpose.

As we moved along 59 Street and 5th Avenue, the chants were impossible to miss:

"Deport me? No way! Undocumented and #HeretoStay!"

“Say if loud, day it clear, immigrants are welcome here.”

"Love, not hate, that's what makes America great."

“The people united will never be defeated.”

When President Obama signed DACA in 2012, it was designed to be a non-permanent immigration program help undocumented people who came in the United States as children.

To qualify, young people willingly submitted their personal information to a national registry, and must apply for renewal every two years.

This is among the most poignant aspects of the program: the end of DACA would likely make all 800,000 dreamers eligible for deportation, as the Department of Homeland Security has access to their contacts and home addresses.

In a statement released on Facebook on September 5, former President Obama said he “waited for Congress to send him legislation” to give Dreamers a pathway to legal status. It never came.

Many advocates are concerned Congress still won’t be able to get together on legislation before DACA is terminated.

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Loredana Urzica is SparkAction’s Community Solutions Program fellow from Romania, where she works with the Social and Economic Council. She is part of the Global Shapers Community, a worldwide network under the World Economic Forum and has a background in political science and competitive intelligence. Her fields of action include advocacy, active participation, education, social justice and social entrepreneurship.