Dozens of young immigrants from Connecticut headed to Washington DC on Tuesday morning to try and save a deportation protection program.
They said they'll be joining forces with thousands of allies from all across the country for a national day of action to defend the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program.
"It has benefited thousands of youth here, including my family members," Gabriela Valdiglesias, who headed to DC.
Valdiglesias was one of 100 people who boarded a DC-bound bus.
"There will be speakers, sharing personal stories and having our voices be heard," she said.
Advocates said the DACA program, which came to be during President Barack Obama's presidency, has helped 800,000 young immigrants since its inception five years ago. Thousands of those students were in Connecticut.
Under the program, immigrant youth are able to get legal protection, go to college and support their families. Those eligible were board after the summer of 1981, came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and met certain qualifications.
This program is now at risk since ten anti-immigrant attorneys general sent a letter to President Donald Trump threatening to sue if the administration doesn't end the DACA program by Sept. 5.
"We're heading down to D.C. to show the strength the community has and show [that] the program is so important to folks all around the country," said Stefan Keller, college access program manager, Connecticut Students for a Dream.
Tuesday, the immigrant youth will be rallying alongside thousands of supporters from around the country outside of the White House. It's the same day of the program's 5 year anniversary.
Keller helped organize the bus trip out of East Hartford.
"[There are] definitely a lot of folks who could be impacted by this," he said.
They also made stops in Danbury, Bridgeport and Norwalk.
"I love going to rallies, shouting, and telling people that I matter," Valdiglesias said.
They're hoping the rally will send a strong message to the Trump administration and that it will generate support from the public.
Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the program.
“DACA is a prudent policy that ultimately strengthens our country and provides for a brighter future for not only immigrants, but for all Americans," Malloy said. "Over the past five years, those who have benefited from DACA have emerged from the shadows and are working towards realizing the great American dream. These young people are attending college, starting businesses, and becoming leaders in their communities. Each new generation of immigrants enriches the American experience, and as a nation of immigrants, we have principled obligation to ensure that the youth in our country are given every opportunity to succeed – and DACA does just that.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman echoed the governor's statement.
“My grandfather came here from Austria and like so many immigrants before him, he helped build this country," Wyman said. "He worked hard, was engaged in his community, and achieved the American dream – a job, a home, and a place to belong. For centuries, immigrants have made this country stronger, lending their labor, service, and love to an ideal – and all the people who share this ideal. It’s our turn now to protect that path for those who want to contribute to our nation, those who already consider themselves Americans, but for where they were born. DACA serves our national interests – ensuring our educated young people can contribute to our communities and the economy.”
Today marks 5 years since implementation of #DACA – a lifeline for thousands of young people in CT & nearly 1M nationwide.— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) August 15, 2017
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