On Wednesday, December 7th, SIPA hosted an event regarding the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act following its repeal by President Trump. Staff writer Megan Wylie went to the timely event which featured a keynote address from Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito and a diverse panel of professors and community activists.

The City Council Speaker giving the keynote address discussing New York’s policies towards immigrants

Being both a native New Yorker and a politics nerd, I inevitably have a guilty pleasure for local politics. When I saw that the event was featuring Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was the first Puerto Rican councilwoman in New York City, I was interested due to the fact that it would not just be an academic approach to tackling the issue, but a personal one. Born in Puerto Rico, Councilwoman Mark-Viverito moved to New York when she was a child and attended Columbia for undergrad, and moved on to Baruch to pursue her master’s. Back to the topic at hand, the Councilwoman has helped make the city remarkably accessible to immigrants affected by the dismissal of DACA through providing legal, social, political, professional and economic assistance to those at risk of being deported.

Though she only spoke for about a half-hour before leaving, the inclusion of a prominent New York City was what really drew me to the panel, which I feared could be a bit too academic. Despite the panel being primarily professors at Columbia, I found the discussion really interesting in the current political context. The panelist who stood out to me, in particular, was Elora Mukherjee, the director of the Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Maybe it was just me being a policy nerd, but her in-depth discussion on the historical background of DACA, the exceptions within the selection criteria of the act, and the nature of the lawsuits against the Trump administration was fascinating. Hearing so much about a policy like DACA, it is easy to think you know everything about the topic, but Mukherjee’s experience from dedicating her work to social justice–she has previously worked on prisoner’s rights, police misconduct, and refugee protection, as well as spending a year at the ACLU–was really eye-opening. Especially when put in context with Mark-Viverito’s address that listed the specific ways in which New York City was a safe haven for immigrants, the added perspectives of Mukherjee, Sociology Professor Van Tran, New York Immigration Coalition activist Charlotte Gossett Navarro and SIPA Professor and organizer of the Panel, Ester Fuchs, helped provide a diverse set of insights into the effects of DACA and its future.

All in all, I thought the panel was interesting. While it was quite dense and scholastic at times, the fact that panelists stemmed from such a variety of academic fields provided a positive melange of attitudes on DACA. Though I had to leave prior to the question and answer session, the event overall was quite casual and seemed more like a guest lecture at SIPA than anything else. The audience mostly consisted of SIPA students focused on urban policies, so the specific focus on DACA and immigration within cities like New York was applicable. With the future of DACA–and of 600,000 young people at risk for deportation–in such a precarious position under the Trump regime, the ability to have an informed conversation detailing the consequences of immigration reform was an enlightening opportunity.

You can hear more about the event and Melissa Mark-Viverito’s work on immigration here.