Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

400 rally in Portland against Trump’s decision to end DACA

Posted on October 16, 2017 in News
By USM Free Press

Sarah Tewksbury | The Free Press
Sarah Tewksbury | The Free Press
Sarah Tewksbury | The Free Press
Sarah Tewksbury | The Free Press

Johnna Ossie

A crowd of about 400 gathered in Portland on Friday night in front of City Hall to protest the Trump Administration’s announcement that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which grants protection for young people brought without documentation to the United States as children. It began to rain on the gathering crowd who were determined to brave the weather. The rain eventually stopped and a rainbow appeared through the clouds.

Those in attendance held signs that read, “No human is illegal,” and “Defend DACA,” among others. They lead chants, calling, “The people united, will never be divided!” As well as, “Up, up with education, down, down with deportation!” Supporters driving by honked car horns in support as the crowd cheered.

The rally was organized by Hamdia Ahmed, a junior political science major at USM. Ahmed also organized a rally in Portland last February to protest Trump’s order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Ahmed urged the crowd to “keep showing up.”

“[Dreamers] were brought to this country by their parents as little kids. They may not know a country besides America. They may not even know a language besides English,” Ahmed said. “Six months from now, unless Congress acts, new DACA recipients will start to lose their ability to work legally and will risk immediate deportation every day. 800,000 people who are American in every way except on paper will lose their ability to live in the only country they know.”

“We stand together to to say the Dreamers will not go back into the shadows,” said Leslie Silverstein, president of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP).

Silverstein told the crowd that DACA has brought stability and hope to nearly 800,000 young people. She called the decision to rescind DACA a “grotesque step backward” an “affront to every standard of justice and fairness” and “a moral atrocity.”

A group of students from Bowdoin College in Brunswick were in attendance, among them their Student Body President, Irfan Alam.

“I want to stress that tonight is just the beginning,” Alam said, pointing out that this would not be the last time that immigrants, people of color and other minorities will be attacked. Alam stressed that being unaffected by an issue is not a reason to stay silent, adding that if you have the privilege not to worry it is your responsibility to stand up.

“For those affected, you are loved, you are powerful, you are courageous and you undeniably have a place in this country,” said Muhammed Nur, a Bowdoin student from Portland.

Also in attendance was Sandra Scribner Merlim, wife of Otto Morales-Caballeros. Morales-Caballeros was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last April near his home in Naples and was later deported to his birth country of Guatemala. Morales-Caballeros lived in the U.S. for 20 years after fleeing the Guatemalan civil war as a child.

“They told us he could stay, they came and took him anyway,” Merlim said. Merlim said that her husband’s only crime was “wanting to live in the United States.”

“My heart is breaking,” Merlim said. “Protect DACA and Dreamers who deserve to live here in peace and without fear.”

A statement sent to the student body on Sept. 5 from the University of Maine System (UMS) read, “…Although there are relatively few students in our System who have self-reported DACA status, the uncertainty any enrolled student may feel about his or her ability to continue his or her public higher education is important to us all.” The statement went on to say that UMS hopes that Congress will “bring certainty” to those seeking to “lawfully” pursue a Maine public higher education.

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