DACA’s D-Day: ‘We Vow to Fight’

By Gloria Alvarez, EGP Managing Editor

At press conferences and protests across the country Tuesday, elected officials and immigrant activists lashed out angrily against Pres. Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, vowing to fight to protect its beneficiaries often referred to as Dreamers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday, saying the president has decided to let the program expire in March 2018, giving the Congress 6 months to pass a permanent legislative solution to the plight of undocumented young people whose parents brought them illegally to the U.S. as children and have done nothing wrong.

Sessions said the program started in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama was an unconstitutional “expansion of executive power,” taking authority that belongs to the Congress.

“The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws — this is the bedrock of our Constitutional system, which I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend,” said Trump in his official statement.

Under DACA, an estimated 800,000 people who were brought to the country as children – including 220,000 in California – have received a temporary reprieve from deportation, social security number and permission to work legally in the U.S. with a 2-year renewable work permits.

Within minutes of the announcement, supporters of the DACA program began a flurry of news conferences, issuing statements condemning the decision and demanding quick action by the Republican-led Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, fully aware that the legislative body has repeatedly failed to act to reform the country’s immigration laws.

“President Trump has flagrantly sullied our American values and ideals with this decision,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), one of the organizers of a protest rally at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles attended by over a thousand people.

Salas pointed out that “Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act not once but three times and it has refused to approve comprehensive immigration reform for nearly two decades.

“Will Congress feel compelled this time around to act and approve a clean, stand-alone bill to protect and bring justice to young immigrants and their families? Let’s hope so.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, called the president’s decision to rescind the program “outrageous.” She joined her Democratic colleagues for a press conference at the Capitol, where they called on the their Republican fellow members of Congress to work with them to pass legislation before DACA ends.

At a press conference also attended by members of the County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “President Trump’s action on DACA is cruel — it threatens to tear families apart, put our economy at risk, and will do nothing to unify America or make us more secure.”

The mayor also urged congress to act quickly on legislation: “… They belong here. And we’ll fight for them to stay.”

Sup. Hilda Solis said the decision not only puts the future of almost 800,000 DREAMers in danger, but also “the future of almost 65,000 undocumented students who graduate high school every year and could have been supported through DACA.”

“According to the Center for American Progress, DACA beneficiaries will contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade – economic growth that will now be lost,” Solis said in press statement.

In defending the decision, Trump said “Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities, a robust middle class and economic fairness for all Americans.”

He noted that officials from 10 states are suing over the program, and his legal advisers have determined that it is “unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”

Not everyone disagreed with the president’s position.

In a video posted on YouTube, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said “President Trump’s decision helps restore the rule of law and constitutional governance … The Trump administration’s enforcement action on immigration shows the best immigration reform is to finally enforce the law,” he said.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista, California, said Obama’s unilateral action was just a “temporary Band-aid.” He went on to say that Trump’s action “puts the onus on Congress to address this challenge in the right way: for the long-haul, with respect for our nation’s laws, a desire to enhance the integrity of our borders, and a sense of compassion for those who were brought here in their childhood years ago and wish to stay as productive members of our communities.”

Saying he is “eager to get to work on a permanent fix,” he called on “Democrats and Republicans alike to immediately put political posturing aside and let this be a catalyst to achieve long-overdue reforms in this important area of concern.”

California Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said the president had acted on a promise he made during his campaign. “Now the real work must begin,” she said, but adding “that will only happen with bipartisan leadership from Congress and the President.” She criticized past Republican and Democratic presidential administrations for failing to pass immigration reform. “Delay and inaction are no longer options,” said Bates.

At a noontime rally in front of City Hall, sporting a red baseball cap with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, Arthur Schaper, a blogger on the website asheisministries.blogspot.com defended the president’s action as the right decision for the country.

At the same rally, Latino Trump supporter Fernando Garcia said Obama should have done things differently because he knew this day would eventually come: “Why did he not make us all citizens back then?” he said.

Immigration rights activists urged DACA supporters to flood legislators with letters and phone calls demanding they act to protect DACA recipients through permanent legislation,

They also reminded DACA recipients, many shaken to the core with fear and uncertainty, that they still have rights and their status, at least for the time being, is unchanged.

According to Ready California, a statewide collaborative working to empower immigrant communities through access to information and legal services, as of Tuesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has stopped accepting initial applications for DACA and will discontinue renewing DACA applications as of March 5, 2018.

“However, DACA recipients’ work permits will continue to be valid until their expiration date. Employers do not have the right to fire DACA recipients unless their work permits have expired,” the group said in an advisory.

Current DACA beneficiaries whose employment authorizations will expire between now and March 5, 2018, only have until Oct. 5 to file a request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If approved, the renewal is expected to be good for two years, or until 2019. If your permit expires after March 5, 2018, however, USCIS will no longer accept and adjudicate their applications for renewal, effectively ending the authorization to work legally beginning March 6, 2018.

Ready California is advising DACA recipients to consult with an experienced immigration attorney; avoid fraudulent service providers; and to avoid any negative contact with law enforcement.

“Any arrest, charge, or conviction, especially DUI or conduct related to drugs can have negative immigration consequences. Contact with law enforcement can result in exposure to the immigration authorities,” they cautioned.

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September 7, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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