Marian Mendez-Cera, a DACA beneficiary and community organizer for El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, delivers 3,800 signed petitions to the offices of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich on Thursday in downtown Albuquerque. (Maddy Hayden/Journal)More than 50 activists from environmental and immigration rights groups gathered in Downtown Albuquerque on Thursday to ask the state’s U.S. senators to block additional funding for what they call “border militarization” when they vote on the federal budget this month.
Carrying signs saying “Fair immigration reform” and “ICE out of ABQ,” the group delivered a petition with nearly 4,000 signatures to the Albuquerque offices of Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats.
President Donald Trump’s administration has requested $1.6 billion in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the Department of Homeland Security to expand border walls and additional funding to hire 500 more Border Patrol agents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are making good on their promise to target, incarcerate and deport our families,” said Neza Leal-Sanchez, a spokesman for the civil rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido.
Members of the group assembled Thursday sought the passage of a Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or Dream Act, in Congress, which would give young illegal immigrants a path toward permanent residency without harsh requirements. Several versions of Dream legislation have failed so far.
Proponents are hopeful legislation will be included in the budget bill so there are no gaps for those currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which is due to end in March. Trump rescinded it in September.
“For many of us, DACA was a game changer; it allowed us to work, study and relieve our parents’ constant fear of being ripped from our families,” said Marian Mendez-Cera, one of the approximately 800,000 DACA beneficiaries in the U.S. and community organizer for El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos. “We call for a clean Dream (Act) free of enforcement tradeoffs.”
Both senators responded to the group’s concerns by the end of the day Thursday.
“I remain strongly opposed to funding a border wall that is not only an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money, but it is not what families in New Mexico want or need,” Heinrich said in a statement. “The time to pass a clean Dream Act is now.”
Udall said he, too, will continue fighting for legislation to protect Dreamers.
“President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program is a cruel and shortsighted mistake that will cause chaos for families and our economy,” he said. “Dreamers represent the best of America.”