Kennett Square Borough mayor speaks out on behalf of DACA recipients
10/10/2017 12:58PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
In June, students at the Greenwood Elementary School sent letters to Kennett Borough Mayor Matt Fetick, as part of a letter-writing campaign that gave ideas on what the mayor's office could do to fill the students' wish lists.
Many of them wrote to Fetick, asking for more playground equipment in the town parks. Others requested that there be more activities at the Kennett Library. Six children wrote, 'Let me stay in the United States,' and 'Let my parents stay in the United States.'
“When a child under the age of ten has a concern that they or their parents may be removed from their home, and that child at that age has to be thinking about that? That bothers me,” Fetick said on Oct. 6. “It's not the right thing. This immigration issue is big, but we can take it in incremental steps. We can say, 'Lets' create a pathway for everyone who is here illegally, but did not come of their own free will. That is an easy one to attack.”
Fetick was less than an hour removed from joining Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell in condemning the current policy of the Trump administration that calls for finding a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – created in 2012 as an executive action by then President Obama, that shields nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants, including 6,000 in Chester County – who were brought to the U.S. as children, from deportation.
Referring to the large Hispanic population who live in the Kennett Square community, Fetick called the Dream Act "the best of America," and said its passage would be extremely important for the “health of the Kennett Square community.”
"Nowhere in history do we hold people accountable for the sins of their fathers," Fetick said. "We do not hold people accountable for what other people do. Yes, it is quite possible that there are kids who now know that their family is here illegally, but when you come here as a child through your parents' choosing, we don't hold people accountable to that and send them back home. It is not a value that I as a life-long Chester County resident believe in. I don't believe this is a value that this country was built on. We hold people accountable for who they are and what they do.
"It is absolutely ridiculous to use any type of political party or political agenda to have anyone living in fear. No one should be living in fear. That's not who we are."
"Now more than ever, we need our congressmen to be courageous," Maxwell said. "We need leadership on the local level to stand up for our values, and we need to make sure that our children are protected from any legislative threat. The quickest and best way to do that is to vote for the Dream Act, and protect the children who are brought here through no will of their own, give them a pathway to have a successful and productive life here in the United States, and make sure that Chester County remains one of the greatest places to live in the country, by making sure that our values outshine those on the federal level."
The purpose of the conference was to encourage Rep. Ryan Costello (Pa., 6th District) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa., 8th District) to support passage of the Dream Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill issued on July 20 that would provide a direct path to U.S. citizenship for people who are either undocumented, have DACA or temporary protected status (TPS), and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program. If it passes, the Dream Act of 2017 would:
・ Grant current DACA beneficiaries permanent resident status on a conditional basis, and allow TPS beneficiaries, people without lawful immigration status, and people with final orders of removal the opportunity to apply for this same immigration status.
・ Permit conditional permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (sometimes referred to as getting a “green card”) if they go to college, have worked for a certain amount of time, or served in the U.S. military. They also would have to meet other requirements.
・ Provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship. A person would have to be in conditional permanent resident (CPR) status for 8 years before they could become eligible to apply for LPR status, and after a certain period as an LPR (probably five years), they could apply for U.S. citizenship.
・ Stop the removal proceedings of anyone who meets the Dream Act requirements and young people over five years of age who are enrolled in elementary or secondary school.
・ Improve college affordability for undocumented youth and other immigrants by changing rules that limit their access to in-state tuition and college loans.
The Dream Act of 2017 would grant recipients an initial conditional permanent resident status. To be eligible, applicants would have to be undocumented, a DACA recipient, or a TPS beneficiary (people with final removal orders, voluntary departure orders, or who are in removal proceedings would be eligible); have entered the U.S. beforethe age of 18; have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since at least four years before the date of the Dream Act’s enactment; and maintain continuous presence in the U.S. until the date they apply.
Dream Act recipients would also be required to meet the education requirement by having been admitted to a college, university, or other institution of higher learning; earned a high school diploma or general education development (GED) certificate, or be currently enrolled in a secondary education program to assist in obtaining a high school diploma or GED certificate; not been convicted of certain criminal offenses; and having passed a medical exam and a background check.
The recording of the Fetick-Maxwell conference call will be transcribed and sent as a letter to Costello and Fitzpatrick.
The push for legislation to protect “The Dreamers” is coming at huge cost, however, as the Trump administration continues its list of demands. Before agreeing to grant legal status to "Dreamers," President Trump is issuing a demand that his proposed southern-border wall be constructed, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents, tougher laws for those who want asylum in the U.S., and the cutting off of federal funding to “sanctuary cities.”
While he understands that the content of his conference call will not be the ultimate factor in determining the future of the Dream Act, Fetick said that it's a good start.
“I'm the elected mayor of Kennett Square so I care about my constituents, and I want them to know that I care about the Dream Act, and that I believe that we support kids who were brought to the United States against their own positive participation,” Fetick said after the conference. “I want my community to know where I stand. As the leader of the police department, as their representative – as their collective voice – I am going to use my office as an opportunity to be a voice for them.”
Passage of the Dream Act of 2017, Fetick said, is more about people than it is about policy. He recalled recent conversations he has had with administrators in the Kennett Consolidated School District, who have told him that many students of Hispanic heritage live in constant fear of deportation.
“I understand the need for security and not letting the problem getting worse, but the people in our community are afraid, and when people are afraid, they don't report crimes because they're afraid to come in contact with the police and the government," he said. "It's not who we are as a community.”
Now in his second term as Kennett Borough mayor and running for a third term, Fetick said that his stand on DACA and the Dream Act of 2017 may not be universally accepted in the community, but "I don't ever worry about getting re-elected, so I get to speak my opinion, so I am going to share what I believe to be the truth," he said. "Being re-elected is not a career for me. It's community service.
"Kennett Square is in general a welcoming community that understands that things are different than just black and white. I am sure there are people who oppose me but I think the list of those who support my belief is longer."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org .