New York City elected officials and immigration activists vowed Tuesday to fight President Donald Trump’s ending of an Obama-era policy that has provided legal status to thousands of undocumented immigrant students and young adults.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at news conference at City Hall, said he would “use every legal avenue” to defend New Yorkers affected by Trump’s decision to upend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“This is a day of heartbreak for so many,” de Blasio said, as he stood surrounded by city Council members, union heads and religious leaders. “It is a terrifying moment for so many people who wonder if they’ll be allowed to stay in the only country they’ve known. The actions today by President Trump undermine a bond that has developed in this country between hundreds of thousands of people and all of the rest of us.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, speaking at a rally at Foley Square in lower Manhattan, reiterated the state’s plan to sue the Trump Administration to preserve the DACA program that offers protected status to some 42,000 New Yorkers, including 30,000 New York City residents.
“Immigration has been and always will be the lifeblood of this state,” Schneiderman told a cheering crowd of several hundred.
The city and state’s pledges for legal action came as protesters took to the Manhattan streets Tuesday. There were at least 34 arrests, according to the NYPD. The mayor’s spokesman said in a Twitter post that protesters who cooperated with officers “will only be ticketed released without fingerprinting.”
Shouting “Undocumented! Unafraid” and “No Papers No Fear” some 200 protesters marched in front of Trump Tower Tuesday morning, at one point briefly shutting down traffic as nearly a dozen demonstrators joined hands to form a human chain across 56th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Among the demonstrators was Luis Chicaiza, 28, a DACA recipient from Hackensack, New Jersey who said he moved to the United States from Ecuador when he was 10. He now works at a Cheesecake Factory in New Jersey.
“Without DACA I wouldn’t be able to work, to drive, I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Chicaiza said. “We’re not second-class citizens, we are human beings.”
Outside the New York Immigration Coalition’s midtown offices, immigration advocates and local politicians, including city Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, denounced the DACA repeal and called on Congress to act quickly.
“I still believe in the dream,” said James, who called the decision to end DACA “blatantly racist.”
At City Hall, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Rev. Al Sharpton joined de Blasio in calling for a restoration of the protections offered under the DACA program. Both argued that those who were brought to the U.S. without legal status by their parents should not be villainized.
“As a pastor, I can tell you these Dreamers are not criminals, aliens . . . intruders . . . they are us. They are our people,” Dolan said. “To demonize them as threats or terrorists contradicts the Bible, America, New York and human decency.”
Sharpton recalled Trump’s past efforts to question former president Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, saying “You have a president who tried to discredit his predecessor’s documents . . . documents are not what he’s preoccupied with, bias and division is what he’s preoccupied with.”
With Matthew Chayes, Lisa L. Colangelo and Ivan Pereira