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Speakers urge political involvement at Grand Forks DACA rally

Maria Berlin, executive director of the Hispanic Caucus of North Dakota, told those attending a DACA rally Tuesday at UND about her grandmother's bravery in coming to America and how older generations support DACA. (Photo by Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

About 25 people heard from speakers at a rally Tuesday at the Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center at UND in support of those who are registered in the federal DACA program and who may face deportation when the policy expires in March.

Several speakers, including two attorneys and a UND student leader, urged listeners to contact their senators and representatives to push for immigration reform and the continuation of DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The Trump Administration has announced plans to rescind the DACA program, which affects nearly 800,000 people who entered the United States as children. Congress has six months to act before those people lose their ability to work, study and live in this country.

Tuesday's rally, originally planned for Grand Forks City Hall, was organized by Mustafe Farah, an immigrant who lives in Grand Forks. He did not address the group, other than to thank them for attending.

Sue Swanson, an immigration attorney with Swanson Law Firm in Grand Forks, said that the immigration system "is broken" and navigating it is "incredibly complex."

"If it's hard for me, who specializes in this, imagine how hard it is for a foreign national," she said.

People registered under DACA came to the U.S. as children and had no say in the decision to immigrate, she said. Their families fled "gang recruitment and extreme poverty" in their homelands, and "the only language, the only culture they know" is this country's.

"Because of that, telling people, 'You need to go to a country you've never seen or don't remember' ... is morally wrong," she said.

Misconceptions about DACA abound, Swanson said. Among them are those with DACA status receive government benefits, take jobs from Americans, do not pay taxes, and have committed serious crimes.

"They cannot receive cash assistance, food stamps or Medicaid (benefits) from the government," she said.

Swanson noted additional qualities of DACA registrants.

"DACA youth are better educated than other immigrants. About 36 percent of those who are 25 or older have a bachelor's degree," she said. And "many have served in the military."

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