Bates College students tell Susan Collins to fight for 'Dreamers'

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LEWISTON — Four Bates College students sat beside the counter in U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office Monday as part of nationwide effort to press members of Congress to approve legal status to young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

“We’re not too threatening,” senior Courtney Foster said.

As junior Haley Crim and first-year student Muskan Verma each livestreamed their effort to a smattering of online watchers across the land, the students sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” while sneaking peeks at the lyrics on other phones.

Sophomore Kati Cabral, whose family came to the United States from the Dominican Republic, said it’s devastating that a country created by immigrants is “turning its back” on 800,000 young people who signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that offered them a semblance of legal status.

President Donald Trump has pulled the plug on DACA. Some of the people who relied on it could be deported as soon as May.

Cabral called it “an attack on youth” that goes against America’s core values.

As she spoke, Crim noted that people were watching her from as far as California.

“We’re getting so many hearts floating across the screen,” she said, thrilled that Democracy Now was sharing her feed for a time.

The students were welcomed by Collins’ staff and invited to fill out forms outlining their concerns so the senator could read them later. Verma said the folks working for Collins were “very nice and supportive.”

The students said Collins ought to make sure there is help for the Dreamers in the emergency spending bill that Congress has to pass this week to avoid a government shutdown.

Crim said it is “totally unjust” for all those young people to have to worry any longer about their fate.

Collins, who opposes efforts to deport ‘Dreamers,’ said Monday she hopes Congress can pass a fix that will relieve the fears of Dreamers this month. But, she said, it’s unlikely to be done as part of a budget measure.

The senator said she thinks there is a bipartisan consensus to act, especially given that U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., got a promise from leaders to take up the issue soon.

“I don’t think it’s fair to cast a shadow” over the lives of young people, Collins said.

Collins said they need “to have their fear relieved” that they could be “rounded up and deported” from the only country they’ve ever known.

Though the atmosphere in the senator’s office Monday was more mild than mad, the students were serious in their intent to prod Collins to join colleagues who are trying to throw a lifeline to DACA participants whose legal status to stay in the country may soon be in real jeopardy.

Crim said the immigrants “are as American as everyone else. They just don’t have the right papers.”

She said people brought to the U.S. as minors had no say in where they were going to live. They grew up attending American schools, absorbing American values and dreaming American dreams, the students said.

“They’re some of the most productive and dynamic people,” Foster said.

She said it’s too bad that so many Americans are willing to stereotype immigrants who in reality “are not so different” from everybody else.

Cabral said they only “need equal opportunity to pursue a dream within the United States” to make big contributions to the nation.

Some of the offices of other senators across the country also faced protests Monday or will see demonstrators at their doors this week, organizers said.

Our Dream, which is coordinating the protests, said on its website that sit-ins “can pressure Democrats — and Republicans who say they care about Dreamers — to vote NO on any spending bill that does not include the Dream Act.”

“We can win this — IF hundreds of us sit-in and take over the offices of representatives and senators across the country to demand they make a choice: stand with Dreamers or stand by as 800,000 young immigrants are deported,” it said.

Verma said it was “really cool to be here and part of an action” reaching into so many offices.

Unlike some of the other protests, however, the Bates students had no intention of pushing their occupation beyond office hours.

They said they would leave when Collins’ office closed for the day rather than risk arrests that could get in the way of jobs and opportunities down the line.

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Four Bates College students sit in the Lewiston office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Monday afternoon. Haley Crim, left, and Muskan Verma, right, live broadcast themselves and others reading statements and talking about why they were there. Also photographed are Courtney Foster, second from left, and Kati Cabral, third from left. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Four Bates College students sit in the Lewiston office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Monday afternoon. Haley Crim, left, and Muskan Verma, right, live broadcast themselves and others reading statements and talking about why they were there. Also photographed are Courtney Foster, second from left, and Kati Cabral, third from left. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ state office representative Carlene Tremblay, top, talks with four Bates College students during their Monday afternoon sit-in at the senator’s Lewiston office. Sitting, from left, are Haley Crim, Courtney Foster, Kati Cabral and Muskan Verma. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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