Council to Trump: Preserve DACA, extend temporary protective status

Published: 3/19/2018 9:01:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Sometime in the near future, an envelope will arrive at the White House sent by the administrative assistant of Northampton’s City Council.

The envelope will contain a resolution passed by the council that urges President Donald Trump to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Another envelope carrying the same resolution will arrive at the office of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen, urging her to “promptly extend the TPS designations (temporary protective status) for all 10 current TPS countries by 18 months.”

The envelopes are the end result of action last week in which the council unanimously approved a resolution on second reading that asks Trump and his administration to extend temporary protective status to all of those unable to safely return to their home countries and preserve the DACA program. It also expressed support for undocumented immigrants, and asked for a path to citizenship that includes all groups.

Temporary protective status is a program that provides protection and the ability to legally work to people in the United States whose home countries are designated as unsafe to return to in response to a natural or manmade disaster. DACA provides protection and the ability to legally work to people brought to the United States as children and some juvenile teenagers.

At its first reading, the resolution only contained support for temporary protective status. However, upon the input from immigrants and the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, councilors opted to make the resolution more comprehensive by sending it back to committee for expansion.

“It changed quite a bit,” Ward 3 Councilor James Nash said.

Nash said that the revised resolution was both more substantive and detailed.

At the meeting, the revised resolution was read into the record in English by Nash, and into the record in Spanish by activist, mother and temporary protective status recipient Marleny Amaya.

Although resolutions have no legal force, they do express the will of the council.

Two of the people who spoke in favor of the resolution were mother Catherine and daughter Veronica Amaya.

A temporary protective status beneficiary, Veronica Amaya had her remarks translated from Spanish by Diana Sierra Becerra, a lecturer at Smith College and former undocumented immigrant.

“We want to be able to work in dignity and in peace,” she said, noting that she and other temporary protective status holders wanted a permanent status, in addition to the extension of the program.

Fifteen-year-old Catherine Amaya, 15, a United States citizen, talked about how her life would be upended if her mother was sent back to El Salvador, noting that her mother’s temporary protective status protection is set to expire when she would be starting her senior year in high school.

“Everything I planned could potentially be turned upside down, and not for the better,” said Amaya, who said that she dreams of becoming a surgeon.

Becerra also gave a presentation on U.S. intervention in Central America, with a focus on El Salvador, and how that intervention has contributed to migration.

“One in five Salvadorans live in the United States,” she said.

Becerra noted both military and economic intervention in Latin America by the United States.

“As we fight for protections for immigrants, we must also denounce the policies that force people to migrate in the first place,” she said.

The resolution elicited enthusiastic support from council members.

“They are better citizens than I,” said Councilor At-Large William Dwight, referring to immigrants who want to stay in this country.

“It was very moving,” said Ward 2 Councilor Dennis Bidwell, on the people who shared their stories at the council’s meeting last Thursday.

“We have deep responsibility,” said Ward 7 Councilor Alisa Klein, noting that both Republican and Democratic administrations have intervened in South and Central America.

“That is what you call Northampton, our community, working together,” Ward 6 Councilor Marianne LaBarge said.

She also said that Trump was not her president, and noted her immigrant heritage from Greece and Portugal.

“You’re protected here,” she said. “And we’ll make sure you’ll be protected.

Dwight said, however, that the council didn’t have the authority to protect people from deportation, although he said that he wished the council could.

“They don’t give you a protection,” Dwight said of the expressions in the resolution. “They give you solidarity.”

City Council President Ryan O’Donnell noted that Northampton’s sanctuary city protections is a policy to not cooperate with voluntary detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. However, he said that the issues that people were speaking passionately about cannot be solved at the local level.

“Everything is not OK,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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