Media

Indianapolis residents, faith leaders come together to condemn Trump DACA decision

September 6, 2017 | Indianapolis Star | Link to Article

 

Their voices melted together in song. 

"O love of God, gather us, amor de Dios, haznos uno," they sang in English and Spanish. "That we may share the gifts we are given para construir la comunidad." 

A prayer vigil, organized by the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, drew about 200 people to the St. Gabriel Catholic Church Tuesday night to speak out against President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

DACA shields about 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, including nearly 10,000 in Indiana, according to the Indiana Latino Institute. Created by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA allows renewable two-year stays for undocumented immigrants that arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, who have gone to school or joined the military and have not committed serious crimes.

► DACA:What is it and who does it protect?

► ICE detainers: Immigration deal thrusts Indy into one of the biggest debates of the Trump era

► Speaking out: Cummins, IU, immigrant groups condemn Trump's decision to end DACA program

Adding her voice to a national conversation is Mara Ariza.

"DACA is not just a working permit for me," she said before Tuesday's vigil, "it is my dream."

Brought to the U.S. at 9 years old,  the 25-year-old spoke in front of a crowd of supporters holding signs advocating for "Families first" and proclaiming "Dios me hizosu imagen," "God made me in his image." 

Currently working as a kindergarten intervention specialist, Ariza said she hopes to soon continue her college education. But ending DACA would cause her to lose her job and likely other opportunities. 

"Regardless of the decision made today, I will continue with my education and I will continue to make my parents proud of me," she said. 

Elizabeth Valencia, 31, may not be a DREAMer, but speaking before Tuesday's prayer vigil, she said she grew up in the shadow of a broken immigration system. 

Her father lost his job in San Diego weeks before she was born, she said, so it was back to Mexico. That began a lifetime of struggling to gain and prove her citizenship, she said. 

"At 14, the government sent me and my mom our green cards, and it had her age on mine and my age on hers, so we had to send it back," she said.

She found out in June, on her 31st birthday, that she's had U.S. citizenship since then, but was never notified, she said. When she finally got her passport this summer, she said she took a Mexican flag to Trump International Tower in Chicago and celebrated. 

"There's some power in knowing that you are going to have your rights recognized," Valencia said. 

She said she won't stand for people being pushed into the shadows. 

"It really is not fair to be raised in a country that is your only home, and then for someone to say, 'This isn't your home,'" she said. "This is our home." 

► Tully: Yet another heartless, senseless move by Trump

In making the announcement Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called DACA's protections an "unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch." 

Sessions said the effect of providing "amnesty" for young undocumented immigrants meant "aliens" took jobs from Americans and contributed to the number of unaccompanied teens crossing the border. 

Trump invited Congress to preserve DACA by passing similar legislation within six months, saying the legislative branch, not the executive branch, should be responsible for immigration policy. He added in a later tweet that he would revisit the issue in six months if Congress is unable to pass legislation.

Several Indiana Republicans threw their support behind the president's decision Tuesday, including Congressmen Larry Bucshon and Todd Rokita. 

"DACA is an Obama decree supported by liberal elites who pick and choose what laws they want to enforce," Rokita said in a written statement Tuesday. "They don't respect the Constitution so they undermine the rule of law, the American people, and the legislative process."

Republican Congresswoman Susan Brooks said she looked forward to working with her fellow elected representatives in the months to come. 

"Sending these children back to countries they are not familiar with is not the solution," she said in a written statement

View image on Twitter
 

But in Indianapolis, these community members came together in prayer. Trading off, local faith leaders took turns praying for DREAMers, for DACA recipients, immigrants of all backgrounds. Praying for understanding in uncertain times and for love to overcome anger. 

"Our hearts are hurting today because the systemic oppression of society has once more dehumanized people who are more than just dreamers," one said. "They are children and young adults who are doers.

"These are people committed to a better life. These are children and young adults who go to schools, to universities, to make America great every single day." 

USA TODAY, IndyStar editor Eric Dick and IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert contributed to this article.

Call IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at (317) 444-6156. Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.