Connecticut’s Attorney General, William Tong, made a special appearance at Eastern on Nov. 12 for a press conference surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in the Student Center Theatre.
Tong joined Elsa Nuñez, president of Eastern, and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, to voice their support for DACA and DACA recipients in light of the first day of hearings on the Supreme Court case, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. DACA is an executive order that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children and was issued in 2012 under the Obama administration and is now being reviewed for its validity and legality. Three Eastern students with DACA also spoke at the conference to share their experiences and voice their opinions. The rest of the conference time was open to questions from the attendees.
Showing his solidarity with the Dreamers, the state attorney is a part of a coalition made up of 17 states, who are fighting the Trump administration efforts to revoke DACA. William Tong, born in Connecticut, empathized with the DACAmented as the son of Asian Pacific immigrants who overstayed their visas. “We stand together as a firewall to protect our families,” said Tong.
“They are living proof of why DACA should continue,” said Nuñez in her opening remarks, referring to the 205 students and DACA recipients at Eastern who are on scholarship with TheDream.Us. The majority of the recipients are not from Connecticut but are from locked-out states that have laws in place against them. Nuñez and Ojakian expressed how appreciative they were that Donald Graham chose Eastern to be a part of the program since the minority graduation percentage rate at Eastern was high. The DACA recipients at Eastern often referred to as “scholars,” have an average GPA of 3.4. Their lives would be greatly affected by an unfortunate turn in the Supreme Court decision. “The decision is unlawful to deport people back to their home country in which they don’t know,” said Nuñez.
“I have always been on the right side of this issue and will continue to fight to make sure that everybody has a right to get an education and to succeed in life,” said Ojakian.
“DACA is not something to be long term,” said Yineira Lopez, president of the Student Government Association and one of the student speakers at the conference. She advocated, as someone who cannot vote, for the support of long term legislation to help DACA recipients stay in the United States. “I have always been on the right side of this issue and will continue to fight to make sure that everybody has a right to get an education and to succeed in life.” Her country of birth is Venezuela which is currently in a state of political turmoil. Along with Lopez spoke Elena Ruiz from Georgia and Yenimar Cortes from Connecticut. Ruiz and Cortes are of Mexican origin. Ruiz showed gratitude towards the DACA program and all that it has given her. Because of TheDream.U scholarship, she has found a “home” in Connecticut where she plans to stay. Cortes, who is a member of Connecticut for a Dream, addressed the separation in the undocumented community from DACA recipients and the rest who are undocumented and criminalized. She vouched that even at Eastern, “there is a lot of work to be done” to make DACA students feel heard and safe.
Tong also expressed his concerns at the conference for the state of relations at the U.S.-Mexico border where those seeking asylum are not greeted with lawful, fair treatment under the current administration. “I wonder how my parents would have been treated if they were met at that border?” After the conclusion of the press conference, the main takeaway Tong wanted the DACA recipients that attended the event to know was that “they are not alone in this fight and that we will do everything that we can to help all of you.”