Just days after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidated a White House plan to protect millions of immigrants living in the United States from deportation, more than 150 protesters gathered outside the state’s federal immigration enforcement office in Hartford and blocked a portion of Main Street.
Protesters hoped to send a message to federal immigration enforcement officials: no deportations.
Police charged nine protesters – seven men and two women – with disorderly conduct after they held a banner that spanned most of the length of Main Street and said, “No DAPA? No deportations.” Protesters were taken one at a time, each being offered the chance to leave peacefully before being arrested.
DAPA, which stands for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, is one component of President Barack Obama’s executive actions to slow deportations that the Supreme Court dismantled on June 23. He initially announced the program in November 2014.
Organizers estimate there were between 150 and 175 protesters lining the street shortly after 4 p.m. It took police about 45 minutes to remove all nine protesters from the street after providing many warnings for them to leave the area.
Officers redirected traffic at nearby intersections near the Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building – where Immigration and Customs Enforcement has its field office in Connecticut. While police officials knew about the planned protest, they were unaware protesters planned to block the street.
“We didn’t know they were going to do any sort of arranged arrests,” said Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley, the department’s spokesperson. “We warned them in both Spanish and English to get out of the street.”
“Most likely, given their histories, they’ll be given a promise to appear [in court],” Foley said, adding the department does not plan to check their immigration statuses.
The event, organized by the Connecticut Immigration Rights Alliance, followed protests in major cities around the nation after the Supreme Court’s 4-4 tie in United States vs. Texas. The decision – or lack thereof – had the effect of leaving intact a lower court’s ruling that invalided Obama’s executive orders meant to protect undocumented immigrants who have children legally living in the U.S. or who arrived here before turning 16 years old.
The decision affects about four million undocumented immigrants.
The Supreme Court’s ruling against DAPA was personal for many of the protesters. “We obviously don’t like the decision because thousands of undocumented parents here in Connecticut were eligible for it,” said Jose Diaz, a 23-year-old New Britain resident. “Now they’re going to be more afraid of coming out of the shadows, because of this decision.”
Diaz came to the United States from Mexico when he was 10 years old. He lived in Georgia for four years before moving to Connecticut at age 14. He is a graduate of New Britain High School and Capitol Community College, and expects to graduate from Central Connecticut State University next year.
His mother, who still lives in Georgia, would have been eligible for a work permit under DAPA.
“My mom could have actually gotten that,” Diaz said. “She would be able to work even better and have a better job so that she can provide for my little brother as well, who is 10 years old and a U.S. citizen.”
In order to be eligible for the program, the worker would have had to have lived in the United States continuously since Jan. 1, 2010, and have had a child who is a lawful resident of the country at the time the program was announced in 2014. Those convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors were barred from eligibility. Those deemed a threat to national security were also ineligible.
Opponents challenged Obama’s programs in court quickly, and a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, issued an injunction in February 2015. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans affirmed the injunction in November 2015.
The court’s decision also puts Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in jeopardy as well. This program allowed undocumented immigrants who were under 16 years old and entered the country before June 2007 to apply for renewable two-year work permits and exemption from deportation. The Obama administration extended that date to June 2010 when expanding the program.