At a press conference in Hartford on Monday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized Congress’s lack of action to solidify the status of those benefitting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“This nation is on the verge of mass draconian deportation that would create a humanitarian crisis,” Blumenthal said.
The Trump Administration announced its intention to wind down the DACA program beginning March 5. However, federal court injunctions are preventing them from doing so for the time being.
“The courts’ decisions have created a false sense of security and complacency,” Blumenthal said. “The injunctions…seem to assure some sense of permanence, but in fact that can be overruled at any moment.”
Blumenthal called for Congress to reaffirm its commitment to the Dreamers.
“I will seek immediate action from the Congress to protect the dreamers…the failure of Congress to do so in the past is a disgrace to our nation and we can make it right only if we take action now,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said Republicans who vote against DACA and other bills to support undocumented immigrants may face the consequences at the polls in the upcoming midterm elections.
“As the really horrific humanitarian consequences of DACA’s end become apparent…the American people are going to hold Republicans accountable. They’ll hold accountable all who have failed to provide a path to citizenship and we will make them aware of that failure as they go to the polls,” Blumenthal said.
Camilla Bortoletto, founder of CT Students for a Dream, said the DACA program allows immigrants to receive the powerful gift of an education.
“We are not just a piece of paper…we are not just our immigration status,” Bortoletto said. “We are our hopes and our dreams, we are the dreams and the hopes of our parents and our ancestors, and what they can never take away from us is our education.”
Speakers at the conference spoke in support of the pending state legislation that would give undocumented students equal access to institutional financial aid, known as the Afford to Dream Act.
Michael Hernandez, a Dreamer from Stamford, said his educational goals were set back by the significant challenges he faced as an undocumented student attempting to finance college.
“My belief of being American was shattered,” Hernandez said. “I felt hopeless and resentful.”
Hernandez said Connecticut can act to help the Dreamers now, even as Congress leaves their future in limbo, by passing the Afford to Dream Act.
“Hartford can rise above the inability of Washington to protect its people by supporting undocumented youth in Connecticut,” Hernandez said.
Greg Haddad, state representative for Mansfield and Chair of the Higher Education Committee, said the committee is currently in conversation about how to move forward with the bill as a “good faith effort to get bipartisan support.” Haddad said they hope to act on the legislation later this year.
CT Students for a Dream is currently sponsoring a petition to support the bill.
“The time is now for Connecticut to pass legislation that equalizes access to student-generated funds for all students regardless of immigration status,” the petition site says.
Blumenthal also discussed the “red flag” bill he is promoting in D.C. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to temporarily seize weapons from someone who is deemed to be a threat to themselves or others by court order.
“What happened in Parkland, when the FBI was warned, could have been prevented if the FBI agents had been able to go to court and remove those weapons from an individual who was threatening to shoot people at his school,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal called the bill, which is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a “bipartisan breakthrough.”
Blumenthal said, due to the bipartisan support for this bill, he thinks the chances of its passage are promising. He said he hopes it will come to a vote later this month.
The bill is modelled after laws that have been on the books in Connecticut and other states for decades.
“This measure, in essence, federalizes Connecticut’s law,” Blumenthal said.
Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @ZarraAnna.