As Americans sit down for Thanksgiving, NJ immigrants on hunger strike
CLINTON — Young New Jersey immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children are continuing a hunger strike this Thanksgiving, urging Congress to pass a "clean Dream Act."
The goal, according to Make the Road New Jersey, is an act "that would provide a pathway to citizenship for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) without expanding funding for immigration enforcement."
Seven "dreamers" — people brought here as children — and other immigrants launched their hunger strike on Nov. 20, an effort continuing through today, Thanksgiving. Joined by several New Jersey-based immigration advocacy groups, they've been visiting Congressional offices and demonstrating.
According to an advisory from Make the Road, they planned to march through Clinton Township on Thanksgiving at 11 a.m.
According to the group, 22,000 young people in New Jersey have benefited from DACA and an additional 71,000 could have qualified had the program continued.
Several young people in the country illegally protested in front of Congressman Chris Smith's Office in Hamilton Monday, WPIX reported at the time.
"I would like for him to have the courage that I’ve unfortunately had to have,” Adriana, 24, told the station, declining to giver her last name. "I’ve put myself in a very vulnerable position by publicly announcing my DACA status, with people knowing that it’s going to expire soon. And I think it’s important for himself and other politicians to stand up and be on the right side of history."
She said she was brought to the country at age 2, and able to get a driver's license and attend college because of DACA.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era DACA program, urging Congress to come up with a replacement. President Donald Trump has said he wants to see any replacement paired with border security proposals, including possibly the border wall he promised on the campaign trail.
Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur — whose office the immigrants visited this week — has supported the Bridge Act, which would extend DACA but without a path to citizenship, the Asbury Park Press reported.
“Congressman MacArthur has always supported DACA and voted against eliminating the program during his first term in Congress,” spokeswoman Camille Gallo told the Press in a statement. “He believes that many DACA recipients came to the U.S as children, and in the eyes of their communities are just as American as his own kids and that fixing our immigration system should not start with harming them.”
When Trump announced the end of the current version of DACA, Republican Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-07) said he believed Obama had overstepped his authority and Trump was right to put the matter in Congress' hands.
He said he would look to pass immigration reforms that would "secure our borders, strengthen employment verification and provide a workable path for 'Dreamers' with DACA status.”
He is also cosponsor of the "Recognizing America's Children Act," which would grant high school graduates without a serious criminal record conditional immigration status. It excludes any who rely on public assistance. It establishes a path to permanent residency and citizenship for those who earn a higher-education degree, serve in the military or stay employed over a period of five years.
More from New Jersey 101.5: