ITHACA, N.Y. – Hundreds of Cornell University students and members of the Ithaca community gathered in front of the statue of Ezra Cornell on the university’s campus on Friday afternoon to rally in support of DACA recipients and undocumented members of the community.
The Trump administration announced its decision this week to reverse the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, which was implemented by the Obama administration in 2012. The policy allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors the opportunity to apply for temporary periods to live and work in the U.S. legally.
The decision sparked national outrage, leading to hundreds of rallies across the country protesting DACA reversal. Friday’s rally at Cornell aimed to bring students together to show solidarity toward fellow undocumented students and immigrants.
Meanwhile, students also gathered in Myron Taylor Hall, part of the Cornell Law School, to hear a panel speak on immigration and executive power in regards to the Trump administration DACA reversal.
The panel, moderated by Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law practice, was made up of three participants, all professors of law. Michael C. Dorf from Cornell, Eric Posner from the University of Chicago and Ilya Somin from George Mason University sat before a lecture hall packed with students to break down the power of executive action in the DACA situation.
“The question of who should be allowed into this country is a highly complicated topic,” Posner said. “I think these are very complicated questions.”
The panel went on to discuss further details of the legal impact of the decision to reverse DACA, but one highly debated topic boiled down to whether or not President Trump’s reputation would have anything to do with a courts decision. The three related the situation to the travel ban President Trump enacted earlier this year.
“If Obama or Bush had implemented a travel ban like that the courts would have deferred their decision,” Posner said. “What’s going on here is the courts don’t trust Trump, and I agree that they are justified in that.”
Somin brought up that many people argue that President Trump’s decisions are specifically targeted because of his image and reputation.
“Some people say Trump is being treated unfairly – I think the question of discriminatory motive here is very important,” Somin said. “I am comfortable in saying that if another president had a similar track record, the courts would treat them the same.”
Back at the statue, even more students, faculty and residents joined the rally, including members of Alpha Phi Alpha, Black Students United, the Latino Civic Association, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and the South Asian Council. Several members of various student organizations stood before the crowd to announce their support for undocumented students. Nearly halfway through, attendees gathered around Patricia Fernandez de Castro, president of the Latino Civic Association in downtown Ithaca.
“Thank you, everybody, for being here, especially the DACA students – thank you for literally being here,” she said to the crowd. “What we saw on Tuesday is a politically easy and cheap diversion of immense humanitarian consequences that sacrifices human beings to distract us from the unwillingness of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to constructively address immigration.”
Castro said real immigration reform was desperately needed, noting that reversing DACA would be a policy that would ultimately hurt the country as a whole.
“It will hurt people who are working, who are in school, and who are serving or have served in the armed forces,” she said. Castro added that in order for individuals to be considered for DACA status, they had to be in school, have graduated, obtained their GED or have been honorably discharged from the military. None have been charged with any felonies or serious misdemeanors, she said.
“DACA recipients are, by definition, individuals whose present contribution and ability to persevere in the face of daunting obstacles tell us they are the kind of person who will build the future,” she said. “They are loyal Americans.”
Castro said on average, DACA recipients arrived here when they were six and a half years old.
“They are American in every way except for on paper – we as a community must defend their rights to be here,” she said. “It is a human right to have a nationality. Every human has the right to have a nationality.”
As the Cornell tower bells rang in the distance, Russell Rickford, a history professor at the university, stood in front of the statue as one of the last speakers of the day. His arrival was met with applause and snaps as he discussed the reversal of DACA in relation to bigger systemic issues facing the nation.
“The architects of our security state, an incarcerous state, a warfare state, share a vision,” he said. “A vision to increase profits and maintain the white supremacist structures upon which capitalism depends.”
Capitalist structures, Rickford said, are the structures which drive inequality in the U.S.
“It is a land of barricades and checkpoints; a prison nation,” he said. “Make no mistake, the folks who are now trying to dismantle any semblance of protection for workers and immigrants are dangerous. Their goal is the supremacy of wealth and power over human need and aspiration. They want absolute freedom from capitalism and absolute slavery for the rest of us.”