Police arrested twelve protesters sitting in Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower on Tuesday, shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the repeal of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers deportation protections and work permits to roughly 800,000 immigrants, 42,000 of whom live in New York. [UPDATE BELOW]
There were nine DACA recipients among the arrestees, according to protest organizers. As undocumented New Yorkers, they wittingly risked exposure to federal immigration officials.
NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan told reporters on Tuesday that police only fingerprint sit-in arrestees who decline to provide name and address; it was not immediately clear if any of Tuesday's arrestees were processed.
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"We knew that it was coming but it's still a shock," said 27-year-old DACA recipient Basilisa Alonso of Yonkers, who moved to the US from Mexico when she was three years old. "I can't believe that there's 800,000 people in this country waking up today with their future in limbo."
"I am willing to [get arrested] for my family, for all of the other DACA people out there who are not public with their stories," she added, a few minutes before her arrest.
Protesters gathered at Grand Army Plaza near the corner of 58th Street and Fifth Avenue, and marched to Trump Tower around 11:30 a.m., chanting "No papers, no fear!" and "We reject a fascist America!" Within the hour, they had been pushed from the north and west corners of Fifth Avenue and 56th over to the east side with threats of arrest.
"It's not fair that immigrants helped build America but yet they want to deport us. That doesn't make sense to me," said Jay Mejia, 22, who immigrated to the Bronx from Mexico when he was five. "If DACA is gone then... I can't just stand still. You know what they say, you can't change the waves but you can learn how to ride."
Jacquelyn Cortes, 22, traveled from Virginia to NYC for today's action. A bio-med student at the University of Virginia and DACA recipient, she urged allies to advocate for immigrant protections more ironclad than an executive order.
"This is really the time to step up and take action and try to get something that's actually permanent," she said.
Kevin Emanuel, a 21-year-old DACA recipient from Mamaroneck who works for the New York State Youth Leadership Council, described the work that lies ahead.
"In the immediate aftermath we are going to start holding spaces where people can digest what happened today," he said. "And make space for mental health. Once we have that solid, once we know that our people are okay, kind of, we can start thinking, okay: how are you going to get to work, drive, make money, get in-state tuition? All of the things that DACA supplied."
DACA protections will evaporate next March unless Congress votes to maintain the program, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the meantime, the federal government will continue to renew DACA for its current recipients (the protections expire every two years). New applications will not be accepted starting today, while DACA issuances and work permits expiring between now and March 5th, 2018 must be submitted for renewal by October 5th, 2017.
More than 100 protesters started marching from Trump Tower around 1:00 p.m., chanting "DACA! DACA! We want freedom freedom, freedom! All these racist politicians we don't need 'em need 'em!"
Rob Lewis, a construction worker, watched the marchers pass by.
"I support DACA," he said. "I think they've exploited labor by pitting undocumented workers and documented workers against each other—forever. That's what drives down wages: that they're in the shadows."
"It's not because they are coming here and want to work for less money than we do, it's just that they can't organize like we can for better wages," Lewis added.
Another construction worker, who declined to provide his name, was not sympathetic: "Go Trump!"
Check back for updates.
Reporting by Scott Heins and Dave Colon.
[Update 2:00 p.m.]: Police arrested several more protesters shortly before 2:00 p.m. at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The group was made up of allies, rather than DACA recipients, according to protest organizers. The group sat down on Fifth Avenue and put their hands behind their backs. Police brought out barricades to force marches onto the sidewalk.
There had been 34 arrests related to the action as of 2:15 p.m., according to the NYPD.
Arrests happened and are happening pic.twitter.com/WBN3uKMa6y
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