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Immigrants and Allies on DACA News: Time for Resolve and Dignity

Reaction from immigrant youth and their allies to the Trump administration’s Sept. 5 decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program came quickly.

Grassroots reform advocates and immigrant youth affected by the decision condemned the decision. They also continued rallies in support of DACA, including one at Trump Tower in New York City.

The Obama administrated started DACA, which provides temporary, renewable work permits and deportation protection for youth who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. 

The president’s decision – which affects about 800,000 young people known as “DREAMers” and their families – comes at a pivotal moment in the country. More than 240 years after its founding, the United States is still dealing with the issues of race, immigration and acceptance, especially with the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the president’s comments about it

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) supporter Francisco Luna protests in Phoenix outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement on Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay. AP Photo by Matt York

While the president said on Sept. 1 that he loves the “DREAMers” and was reportedly torn over making the decision to rescind DACA, he also retweeted a message that put a preference on U.S. citizens, according to The Associated Press.

“Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST!” the message Trump retweeted on Sept. 5 said.

Equal Voice News has collected reaction from DACA youth, immigrant families and community organizations about the decision. It gives Congress until early March 2018 to find a policy solution for the fate of these young immigrants who grew up in the United States. 

Abraham Diaz, a DACA recipient and education specialist with Texas-based LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero):

“The DACA program was an unqualified success. I am one of the over 800,000 DREAMers across the U.S. who have been able to work, go to school, contribute to America and live fuller lives because of the program. Because of DACA, we have been able to obtain driver’s licenses, access educational opportunities and remain with our families without the fear of deportation.

Doing away with this program that has done so much to lift up our community and nation will not drag us back down. We want our immigrant community to know that we will stand together and support each other. President Trump can take away DACA, but he cannot take away our dignity.”

Tania Chavez, left, reacts as she listens to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce on Sept. 5 the end of the program that protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, known as DACA, during a gathering in support of the program in front to the Texas Attorney General’s office in Pharr, Texas. Photo by Nathan Lambrecht of The Monitor via AP

Juan Belman, a DACA recipient in Texas and an undocumented organizer with the University Leadership Initiative:

“We fought for and won DACA to stop the deportations of many young undocumented immigrants, including thousands here in Texas. DACA is a program that has protected our community and also allowed those who are beneficiaries like myself a chance to thrive.

With today’s decision, we demand immediate legislation that gives immigrant youth a permanent solution and that does not criminalize our parents.”

Paula Camaya, a DACA recipient and youth leader with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago: 

“It took undocumented communities and allies traveling, marching, advocating and organizing to make DACA happen five years ago. It was a huge victory for our community that has made life easier for many people, myself included. The last few years of my life couldn’t have been what they were – filled with opportunities and feelings of safety and security – without DACA. I know many other youth feel this way. And now, more than ever, we are not backing down.”

Maria Rodriguez, executive director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition:

“In this moment, the Florida Immigrant Coalition holds our community close. Our members and allies are in pain at the news of this attack on our youth; however, we stand ready to do everything we can to love and protect each other.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a statement on Sept. 5 at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. on President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program. President Donald Trump’s administration will “wind down” a program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, Sessions said. AP Photo by Susan Walsh

Just as we did to win DACA, we will continue to fight and defend against detentions, deportations and daily discrimination. We know we are not all affected in the same way; for some, like our trans-queer family or political refugees, being deported can mean a death sentence. 

…Today’s cruel decision to cancel DACA will have deep emotional and financial scars on nearly 40,000 Floridian DACA recipients and their families, with ripple effects on all of us.”

Kitzia Esteva- Martinez, co-director of community rights for Northern California-based Causa Justa :: Just Cause: 

“As our immigrant communities reel from the announcement that the Trump regime ended DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – we commit even more deeply to organizing.

…It’s time to step it up, build bold strategy and build a new system where we love ourselves and love is mutual for Black People, immigrants, LGBT, working-class people. This means getting our needs and dignity met. DACA was never enough, but we, our families are enough, we’ve had enough. It has been time; all of us or none of us!” 

Marcela Díaz, executive director of New Mexico-based Somos Un Pueblo Unido:

“If thousands of workers and students who have DACA lose their jobs and are detained or deported, income loss will impact entire families, including thousands of U.S. citizen children. Public and private sector employers will suffer, especially in the education and health care industries. And reduced revenue from local and state taxes will hurt all New Mexicans.

Police arrest activists on Sept. 5, as they block Fifth Avenue during a protest against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in New York City. The protest took place in front of Trump Tower. AP Photo by Andres Kudacki

Now more than ever we need to protect and enact stronger sanctuary policies at the local level to ensure that families are not separated and that our economy is not further jeopardized.”

Opal Tometi, executive director for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network:

“BAJI stands with the millions of young undocumented immigrants whose lives are on the line, including those protected under DACA. Until dignity, justice and human rights protections can be afforded all oppressed communities in the U.S., we remain undeterred and emboldened in in our fight against this administration’s racist and xenophobic policies and tolerance for hate-fueled policies.”

Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission:

“DACA recipients are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and neighbors, who contribute ideas, culture and integrity to our nation. Their hard work and contributions benefit our communities, families and economy.”

Adriana Cadena, coordinator for the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA):

“Those affected by this – young people looking for inclusion so they can achieve and contribute to society – are the essence of the American Dream. This decision to target DACA not only shortchanges the future of those who have benefited from it directly, it makes all of us poorer off.  ‘Dreamers’ deserve better than the callous, craven posturing of politicians looking to pander to racists, nativists and xenophobes.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave after attending services on Sept. 3 at St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. AP Photo by Susan Walsh

…Texas prospered throughout its history by being welcoming and diverse. These are the values we must fight for and insist upon.”

Cristina Jimenez, executive director for United We Dream:

“We are outraged by Trump’s decision to end DACA….Only a serial abuser would rationalize delayed violence as acting with a ‘big heart.’ Ending DACA means mass deportation – period….We reject the idea that immigrants must endure more pain so that any group of immigrants can get some relief.

Make no mistake – we will not be pushed into the shadows by these racist politicians. This is our home and we are here to stay.”

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:

“Since its launch five years ago, DACA has made strong positive social, economic and educational impacts on both recipients and the states and communities where ‘DACAmented’ individuals live. DACA provided peace of mind to immigrant youth who were protected from deportation [and] granted permission to work legally and support their families, enabled to get a driver’s license and more.”

Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of Texas-based LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero):

Kathia Ramirez, right, holds her son Rowen Salinas, 11 months, as her husband Randy Salinas holds their daughter Fridah Salinas, 2, during a Sept. 5 protest in favor of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in front of the Texas Attorney General’s office in Pharr, Texas. Ramirez, 24, was brought to the U.S. when she was 7-years old, her husband and children are all U.S. citizens. Photo by Nathan Lambrecht of The Monitor via AP

“We are heartbroken by the mean-spirited and disastrous actions of the president. After pardoning racist Arpaio (the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona), Trump has gotten even crueler by removing protections for 800,000 young immigrant ‘Dreamers,’ including as many as 28,000 in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP:

“The Trump administration appears hell bent on being the most destructive presidential administration in the history of this nation. Policy after policy seems to be crafted with the intent of doing the most harm possible.

The decision to destroy DACA is the latest move by this administration to hurt as many families as possible and to disrupt the lives of hard-working people in the United States as quickly as possible, without any thought to consequences on individuals or the economic impact on the nation as a whole.”

Efrén C. Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project:

“We will not take this lying down. We are actively exploring legal action. DACA recipients are teachers in our schools, nurses in our hospitals and first responders in Houston. We will stand with immigrant youth in Texas through this time.” 

Cielo Mendez, 17, of Plainfield, New Jersey, who is a DACA recipient, second from left with banner, marches on Sept. 5 next to Gabriel Henao, 7, and Kimberly Armas, 15, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, outside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in Washington, D.C. AP Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a coalition of civil rights and legal service organizations:

“After our government had asked these young people to come forward and put their trust in the government, it is inhumane for our government to strip these young people of the protections DACA has provided. By phasing out DACA, this administration has failed to show moral leadership.
 
DACA is a humane and common-sense policy solution that has a firm legal basis. For the past five years, Advancing Justice has fought for and served thousands of Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, African and other DACA applicants and recipients, and we are appalled by the president’s lack of humanity and compassion.”

Angelica Salas, executive director for CHIRLA (the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles):

“Ending DACA is cruel and unusual punishment targeting a vulnerable population who has done everything in their power to belong and give back to the only country they know as home. 

For nearly 900,000 young immigrants, DACA signifies a lifeline, a shining beacon of hope in the midst of a shadowy immigration limbo perpetuated by politics, xenophobia and a cruel anti-immigrant stance.” 

Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project:

“Today, President Trump demonstrated that he doesn’t have the big heart nor the very good brain that he has bragged about because his decision to end DACA is heartless and doesn’t make sense in any way.

A supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, waves a flag during a Sept. 4 rally outside the White House, in Washington, D.C. AP Photo by Carolyn Kaster

…We will continue fighting to protect our DACA neighbors and their families. All of our families deserve to have their humanity and dignity acknowledged and respected.”

Telemundo, the media company:

“Telemundo stands with the 800,000 ‘Dreamers’ who are integral to the economy, culture and spirit of our nation. We are disheartened by the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In addition to the human impact of this decision, repealing DACA will result in the loss of thousands of jobs in the United States and billions of dollars in economic growth over the next decade.”

Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles: 

“In the five years since the creation of DACA, Advancing Justice-LA has helped thousands of young immigrants secure DACA status and emerge from the shadows.

It has been a true lifeline for these young people – most of whom know no other country – allowing them to work above ground and contribute fully to their families, communities, and economy. Now, with the end of DACA looming ahead, we are committed to helping as many as possible and to fighting for their place in our democracy.” 

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director for The Center on Popular Democracy:

“Eliminating DACA means that almost a million people we love dearly because they are our family members, our friends, our neighbors and coworkers, may lose their ability to work and their health care, have to drop out of school and live in constant fear of being detained and deported.

We are angry. We are heart-broken. But we will not back down. We must stand, together, for our immigrant youth.”

Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS (formerly NCLR, the National Council of La Raza):

“President Trump has again chosen to appease the bigots in his base rather than do what is in the best interest of the country. This has never been so clear than in today’s decision to end DACA. This action is not just short-sighted. It’s unspeakably cruel and gratuitous.”

Ai-jen Poo, executive director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (she is participating in a fast from Sept. 5 to 8 in support of DACA):

“We need to remember that Trump’s decision to end DACA will not only impact thousands of young immigrants, but entire families, communities and our economy. A large number of domestic workers are mothers of DACA recipients, or DACA recipients themselves, and are ready to do whatever it takes to defend their sons and daughters, and their families. I will be fasting with them to send a message to Trump and Congress, that women take this fight personally and we will not stop until our families are protected.”

Arizona Community Action Association:

“To Arizona’s 28,000 Dreamers: We see you, we respect you, and we will fight for you.”

Sameera Hafiz, advocacy director for We Belong Together, an immigration rights project of the National Domestic Workers Alliance:

“Immigrant women and mothers will not stand for this.”

Edgar Agustin Marquez Ochoa, a dad of two U.S. citizen children and a DACA recipient who works at a Santa Fe credit union: 

“”We will not be discouraged. Because of DACA I was able to go back to school, get a GED and get a better paying job to provide for my family. We will continue to fight for a better life.”

___________

Brad Wong is news editor for Marguerite Casey Foundation‘s Equal Voice News. About the top image: DACA supporters march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix to protest shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement on Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay. AP Photo by Matt York. This story summarizing reaction to DACA has been updated.


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