Activists protest DACA repeal in Manchester

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MANCHESTER — Area people took to the streets Sunday to protest the Trump administration's repeal of the Obama era policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.)

The policy, instituted in 2012, provides temporary legal protections for almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

"We've already invested in these people through education, and they've been paying taxes," said Tim Scoggins, chairman of the Shaftsbury Select Board. "Now for no good reason, except for to feed the base I guess, we're going to yank the rug out from under them after they've already started this process? It's just hurtful."

Sunday's rally, organized by the progressive activist group MoveOn Manchester, brought multiple demonstrators to the town's southern roundabout in support of those protected by DACA, known as "dreamers" to many.

"This is a common sense way to spread the message that the `dreamers' are as American as anybody else," said Jonathan Fine, founder of MoveOn Manchester. "They probably appreciate what the United States stands for even more than some of us who may take it for granted."

For many demonstrators, the President's decision to repeal DACA came as a perplexing, though not unexpected, move.

"To rip this away from them so cruelly and unnecessarily, it feels like a strange move even for Trump," said Fine. "From a humanistic standpoint it just doesn't make a lot of sense to demonize these people for being brought here by their parents."

"This is not only a mean decision," said Scoggins. "It's counter productive."

For others, the decision to repeal DACA is representative of what they feel is a larger anti-immigrant bias in the Trump administration.

"This [immigration] is the thing that makes us different from every country, the most multicultural country in the world, and the country that used to be the greatest," said Heather Stevenson, of Rutland, who heard of the demonstration through the Rutland NAACP. "They're just trying to subtly undo a lot of the things that were awesome about us."

For the organization, the rally serves as a way to promote their pro-diversity message while remaining active in the community.

"During the spring we were very active, the group was quite large and we had a lot of events," said MoveOn member Jen Lalor. "Over the summer a lot of us were traveling, so this is kind of our first event to get back together and to encourage more local activism."

"It's hard to know with a small, local organization when you can get people together on national issues, but there was definitely enough of a backlash here to Trump's recent overturning of DACA," said Fine. "Judging from the reception we're getting it's 98 percent positive. It's a pretty good ratio."

While the rally received largely positive responses from drivers and passersby, Fine hopes that those who disagree will be prompted consider their biases.

"Part of my overall mission is to make the other side uncomfortable for being down on another person because of their race, or religion, or country of origin," said Fine. "We want to show them the way to the path of open mindedness, acceptance, and respect."

While Manchester, and Vermont in general, is largely white the group hopes that their message will resonate nonetheless.

"We don't know if there are any `dreamers' driving around this circle or even in the greater Manchester area, but we would be happy to have them here," said Fine. "Most of the community would support them if they were here."

"I feel deeply that the country does better and has succeeded because it is multicultural," said Stevenson. "I want to make sure that we continue to do well in the future, and we need immigrants to do that."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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