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Saratoga Springs Demonstrators Hold Vigil In Support Of DREAM Act

Lucas Willard

Supporters of the DREAM Act held a national day of action on Wednesday. Advocates rallied in Washington D.C. while other, smaller demonstrations in support of immigrants brought to the United States as children went on in communities across the country. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard attended one such gathering in Saratoga Springs.

Demonstrators held signs and small flashlights on a chilly corner of Broadway Wednesday night. They gathered to show support for a clean DREAM Act – calling on Congress to grant legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Trump administration policies, such as the announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the summer, have motivated local advocates.

Diane Collins traveled down the Northway from Glens Falls to attend the vigil. She said she wasn’t surprised by several arrests made by ICE in Saratoga Springs over the last several months. In early November a 21-year-old Mexican man who came to the U.S. at 16 was arrested by ICE outside of Saratoga Springs City Court after arraignment on a DWI charge reduced to a traffic violation.

“I was expecting that kind of situation from ICE. And again it’s a deplorable action and they’re going after the wrong people,” said Collins.

The event was organized by the Saratoga Immigration Coalition. Advocates have pointed out that Saratoga Springs, with its entrenched horse racing industry and summer tourism boom, needs immigrant workers to survive.

Terry Diggory is a member of the Welcoming Immigrants Task Force at the local Presbyterian New England Congregational Church.

“We wanted to show that there was in fact a great deal of support for the Dream Act around the country. So this is actually just one of many local events, even in our area, that are occurring in support of the Dream Act. “

Reverend Joe Cleveland of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs was also on hand representing the faith community.

“We are motivated by our religious values of loving your neighbor and welcoming a stranger and that’s why we’ve voted to become a sanctuary congregation: to support the new sanctuary movement and to support immigrants in our community,” said Cleveland.

The two congregations have partnered to offer services and sanctuary to anyone who feels they are under threat of deportation.

The Presbyterian New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs set aside an apartment for anyone seeking sanctuary residence. Diggory, a church elder, said the apartment has not yet been used.

“We have had inquiries from people who might want to use that space but at the moment so far we have not had somebody actually go into sanctuary residence,” said Diggory. “It’s a very extreme measure, very restricting for the person who decides to take that step.”

Some at the vigil also took the opportunity to voice their displeasure with President Donald Trump, with one sign calling for his impeachment. This week, after Texas Democratic Representative Al Green forced a vote, an impeachment resolution was tabled in the House.

Though several cars honked in support of the event in Saratoga Springs, one man leaned out of a vehicle to gesture and shout Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan at the demonstrators. 

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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