By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Yvette Llanas, a lifelong Bowling Green resident and American citizen, never dreamed the threat of deportation would touch her family.
Llanas found out last week she was wrong.
“I never thought this would affect me,” Llanas said in an impromptu speech on the Wooster Green Sunday evening during a rally opposing President Donald Trump’s action to end DACA.
“My daughter-in-law happens to be undocumented,” Llanas said. “The decision made this week just crushed my soul.”
Her daughter-in-law came to America as a small child. “This is the only home she knows,” Llanas said. “She is part of our country,” as are her two children.
“We are all immigrants here, somehow, some way,” Llanas said.
About 60 local residents gathered in the Wooster Green to express their opposition to Trump’s announcement last week that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months if Congress doesn’t find a more permanent solution.
Since it was enacted under President Barack Obama, about 800,000 immigrants who were children when they arrived in the U.S. illegally have received protections from the program. DACA allows young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses. Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. Their status is renewable every two years.
“This is really targeting kids who were brought by their parents at a very early age,” said Beatriz Maya, of the La Conexion organization. “They don’t know any other life. It makes no sense for them to be deported. It’s very wrong. They cannot be blamed for anything.”
Those attending the rally were asked to contact their congress members about the DACA issue.
“The Dreamers don’t want citizenship just for themselves,” Maya said. “They want comprehensive immigration reform for 11 million undocumented immigrants, who have been contributing to the nation for many, many years.”
Jorge Chavez, president of the La Conexion organization, presented his comments in Spanish and English.
“I am blessed and lucky because I don’t have to be afraid,” said Chavez, who is a BGSU professor, a father and a husband.
The DACA program helped about 800,000 people previously at risk of deportation. “This program allowed them to come out of the shadows, to drive, to work,” he said.
“They are our friends. They are our neighbors. They are business leaders. They are us. There is no division here,” Chavez said. “America is stronger because of her diversity.”
“If they lose out, we all lose out,” he said. “I urge you, we have less than six months to act.”
Bowling Green’s city administration was represented at the rally, showing support for DACA. Council member Sandy Rowland read a statement by Mayor Dick Edwards stressing the city’s welcoming platform for immigrants.
Council member Daniel Gordon noted the frequent rallies being held recently in the Wooster Green.
“It’s a shame we have to keep coming out here,” he said. But citizens can’t sit by while Trump dismantles the DACA program.
“What’s going on here is morally obscene. It will rip their families apart and take them from the only families they have ever known,” Gordon said. Ending DACA is not only cruel, “frankly, it’s un-American.”
Gordon suggested that citizens flood the phone lines of congressional members. “An attack on some of us is an attack on all of us,” he said.
Council member Bruce Jeffers talked about the economic side of the DACA issue. Not only is the ending of DACA wrong – it would hurt American businesses, he said.
“Bowling Green and Wood County businesses understand that pushing out immigrants from our country is a disaster,” from an economic development standpoint, Jeffers said. “We need skilled workers. Why in the world would we want to push people away.”
Those attending the rally were asked to sign a letter from the La Conexion Immigrant Solidarity Committee being sent to U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, and U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. In part, the letter states:
“These young people are Americans in every way but paperwork – many have little to no memory of the country they came from and have been raised, educated, and employed as Americans for nearly their entire lives.
“We are particularly dismayed that to date, you have not made your opinion on this issue known. We have heard from Governor Kasich, who passionately invited these young people to come to Ohio. Senators Brown and Portman have also already made their positions clear – that these young people deserve a permanent solution and that answer needs to come from Congress. Last week, members of our organization came to your office on September 5th, requesting information on your position and urging you to take action.
“But still we have not heard you speak out on behalf of these young Americans. As a result, we will state our expectations once more:
- We expect that you, and all members of Congress, should take immediate action to protect DACA recipients contributing to communities across the country – the longer you take, the more stress and unnecessary worry these young people will have to endure.
- We urge you to support and co-sign the bipartisan Dream Act (S.R. 1615, H.R. 3440) introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), that would provide a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million immigrant youth who grew up calling this country home.”