Advocates for DACA recipients, DREAMers, rallied in Albany today — one day after the state Assembly passed "The DREAM Act" for the eighth year in a row.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told reporters Tuesday in Washington that up to 1.8 million immigrants known as "Dreamers," protected by an Obama-era program that President Donald Trump has said will end on March 5th, are NOT top targets for deportation, as long as they lack criminal records.
Closer to home, a group of Capital Region residents staged a noon-hour protest outside the Leo O'Brien Federal Building in Albany, hoping to send a message to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Megan Kaminski from Slingerlands is with the progressive political action group Electric City Resistance. She says it wasn't the DREAMers' idea to come here. "I personally know DREAMers that are, you know, that you have to have graduated from high school, you have to be, you gotta pay taxes, 97 percent of them pay state taxes. A lot of them have family here. Some of them have kids here. We don't want their families to be ripped apart and we just want them to be protected, and right now they're in danger at the federal level, and we're asking Senator Schumer and the Senate Democrats to protect them."
Kaminski brought postcards addressed to Schumer from more than a hundred New Yorkers.
The activists were encouraged that the state Assembly passed its version of the DREAM Act on Monday. Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie: "So the DREAM Act would level the playing field for undocumented students that have successfully completed high school or received an equivalency diploma in New York by extending eligibility for state financial assistance to pursue a college education."
Heastie says now is the time to make this happen. "Because it's important for the sake of our students and all of our community. Let this be the year New York State DREAM Act finally becomes law.”
It’s unclear what the chances of that happening are. The Senate is controlled by Republicans in a power-sharing agreement with breakaway Democrats, and special elections — and the budget — are looming this spring.
Back on the windy streets of downtown Albany, Megan Kaminski, back from delivering those postcards, is encouraged. "The staff members from Schumer and Gillibrand's offices came down and let us give them the postcards and they're listening to our concerns."
President Trump has proposed creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants covered by DACA who might potentially qualify for its protections. In exchange, he wants $25 billion for border security, including money to build his much-touted wall along the U.S.- Mexican border.
Speaker Heastie expressed his own concerns: "Frankly, some of the rhetoric coming out of Washington has been divisive, mean-spirited and cruel. Our country is better than that, and certainly New York state is better than that as well.
Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement Monday urging the state Senate to pass the bill.