Hampshire College alum Eduardo Samaniego urges Democrats and Pioneer Valley activists to continue the fight for DACA

Hampshire College alum Eduardo Samaniego urges Democrats and Pioneer Valley activists to continue the fight for DACA

By Mack Cooper

In the wake of a government shutdown last week over funding for President Trump’s border wall and a permanent solution to DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program which protects undocumented immigrants from deportation who came to the United States as children, Eduardo Samaniego called on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats to resist any deal in the future that does not include a DACA deal or does include funding for a border wall.

“We are urging Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to stand strong on DACA, build a backbone and say no to any deal that includes funding for the wall,” Samaniego said.

Eduardo Samaniego is a former Hampshire College student and five-college representative. He is also an undocumented immigrant. Samaniego is not protected by DACA, but he still considers himself to be a “Dreamer,” a term that has come to refer to the nearly 800,000 people living in the U.S. under DACA protections.

“I still am undocumented. I am very much a part of the Dreamers,” Samaniego said.

While Samaniego may not be considered a Dreamer by law because of the stipulations of DACA, he is fighting to push the Dream Act through Congress into federal law. He is currently in Washington D.C. working as an advocate for the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, part of a national coalition of organizations that supports the Dream Act.

Samaniego’s area of work in supporting the Dream Act became national news last week, as DACA and the border wall were central to the debate around the federal budget.

Schumer said that he offered Trump a deal that included funding for the wall in exchange for a permanent DACA program. This deal was not accepted and the government was shut down Friday through Monday. On Monday, Democrats decided to vote for a continuing resolution that would fund the government through Feb. 8, but did not include funding for the wall or a DACA deal.

According to Samaniego, the Trump administration and the far-right wing of the Republican party were to blame for the government shutdown. Citing an ABC News poll, Samaniego stated that, because 86 percent of both Democrats and Republicans support the Dream Act, passing the law should have been easy and simple. Samaniego also cited the fact that Republican senators Lindsay Graham and Jeff Flake did not vote in favor of a continuing resolution to fund the government that did not include a DACA deal as proof of bipartisan support for the program.

“The Trump administration has always rejected the 86 percent of Americans, Republicans and Democrats who support Dreamers,” Samaniego said. “Republicans have completely rejected what voters want, what Americans want and what is right, moral and just for people who consider this country their home.”

Despite their actions, the Trump administration has appeared somewhat vocal in their support for DACA. Trump tweeted on Jan. 22 that he wanted a “big win” for DACA; when asked if the administration would start to deport Dreamers, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We are hopeful that we don’t have to do that.”

To Samaniego, these comments of apparent support are nothing more than political theatrics.

“The moderate wing of the Republican party is who Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Donald Trump are talking to when they make these comments,” Samaniego said.

While Samaniego’s activism is currently focused on passing the Dream Act, he expressed his dissatisfaction for any DACA deal that included funding for the border wall.

“[It would] simply serve to cement the white supremacist agenda of Donald Trump and the Stephen Millers of his administration,” Samaniego stated.

For Samaniego, President Trump’s rescindment of DACA in September 2017 was not exactly a surprise; it was both a moment of hope and fear amongst the immigrant community and a constant fight for Dreamers since.

“There was a moment of community for sure, but also uncertainty and for sure fear,” Samaniego said. “There was fear but also a lot of hope because like never before, we saw and continue to see people come out to protest.”

Samaniego, a former recipient of Hampshire College’s Undocumented Students Scholarship Fund, said it is inspiring seeing the level of commitment that citizens of the Pioneer Valley have shown in their support for DACA. Samaniego said that just hours after President Trump announced his decision to rescind DACA, about 500 people showed up to the Pioneer Valley Workers Center to protest the President’s decision.

“Locally in our community of the Pioneer Valley people have made thousands of calls to senators urging them to support the Dream act,” Samaniego said.

According to Samaniego, the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the citizens of the Valley have also made thousands of calls to both New Hampshire senators, Republican Maggie Hassan and Democrat Jean Shaheen.

Support for Dreamers has also come from the Pioneer Valleys Five-College Consortium. All five schools in the Pioneer Valley issued statements following President Trump’s termination of DACA in support of the program. More recently, the University of Massachusetts system issued a statement in support of the DACA program signed by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

“On behalf of the five-campus, 75,000-student University of Massachusetts system, we call on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that protects the ‘Dreamers’ so that they may remain in the United States without fear of deportation,” the statement read.

Samaniego felt positively about the statement.

“It feels so good to know that we were here and we were supported,” Samaniego said.

However, Samaniego will continue to fight to pass the Dream Act.

“We do have to have faith, but we also have to continue to make our voices heard,” Samaniego said. “Dreamers have to continue to share their stories and our community, across the valley has to continue to say ‘we want a clean Dream Act.’”

Mack Cooper can be reached at [email protected]