Elias Rosenfeld needed just three words to summarize his reaction to Trump administration’s immigration decision on Tuesday.
“It is terrifying,” he said.
Rosenfeld was among a crowd of more than 200 that gathered for about an hour in support of immigrants early Tuesday evening near Boston’s Faneuil Hall. The rally, organized by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, was held just hours after President Trump said he was eliminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA.
The program, which protects some young immigrants who were brought to the US as children but do not have legal status, has helped hundreds of thousands stave off deportation.
DACA recipients said they were troubled by the decision, and called for more protections for immigrants.
“We’re going to mourn today,” Filipe Zamborlini, 28, of Dorchester told the early evening gathering. “It is a heartbreaking day, unquestionably.”
Zamborlini who benefitted from DACA and is now on the path to US citizenship. His family came to the US from Brazil when he was 12, in search of a better life. He was undocumented from 2001 to 2012, he said.
“Opportunity is what DACA means,” said Zamborlini, who works as a career coach at Jewish Vocational Services. “It is an opportunity that is being taken away from the immigrant community.”
Rosenfeld, who moved from Venezuela to the US when he was six, said DACA allowed him to obtain a driver’s license, buy his first car, and made him eligible for internships and scholarships. He grew up in Miami, Fla., and is now studying political science and sociology on a full scholarship at Brandeis University in Waltham.
“Obviously, it’s very scary news, it’s inhumane, the decision that’s come out today,” he said.
Trump’s plan to phase out DACA gives Congress six months to save it.
But those months could be “the hardest of our lives, and the most important of our lives,” Rosenfeld said.
He knows people who are worried about losing work permits, or being deported, since the government knows where DACA recipients go to school, where they live, and where they’ve worked.
He said he would like see a permanent solution to the immigration issue, one that “doesn’t depend on who is in the White House.”
Natalia Berthet Garcia said her family moved from Uruguay to the US when she was 5. Now 28, Berthet Garcia, who graduated high school in Leominster, recalled times when her parents, who worked factory, construction, and cleaning jobs, felt exploited by employers.
Sometimes they wouldn’t get paid for weeks, she said. Her mother, she said, endured sexual harassment at work; she kept quiet because of her status. Relatives died in Uruguay and the family couldn’t return to bury them because of “artificial, man-made borders” and “horrific policies that exist to oppress, divide, and terrorize immigrant communities,” she said.
She recalled scouring the DACA policy the day it was unveiled in 2012. She said she knew she would be able to get driver’s license, and that DACA would open up job opportunities for her. There was also guilt. She knew the initiative would not help some immigrants.
“You can’t give something to some of us and leave the rest of us out and tell us that’s OK,” she told the crowd. “That’s not OK.”
In an interview, Berthet Garcia, who is an organizer with Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, called the president a “fascist.”
“I want us to keep fighting for all immigrants,” she said. “I hope we don’t get scared again.”
Jean Dolin, 23, of Boston rejected the administration’s argument that DACA was an overstep of the executive branch and unconstitutional. Dolin, who came to the US in 2012, said he fears he and his family will be sent back to Haiti.
“It really makes me sad to a point where I don’t know if I believe in the country anymore,” he said. “I don’t know if there is hope.”
Some advocates and lawmakers attending the rally pushed for state proposals that would help immigrant communities.
Amy Grunder, the director of legislative affairs with Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said her group supports legislation that would allow students who have gone to a Massachusetts high school for three years to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.
Grunder also advocated for Massachusetts legislation that would “create a firewall” between federal immigration enforcement and local public safety authorities.
“It would get Massachusetts out of the business of immigration enforcement,” she said.Protesters listen during the rally.