Immigrants Vow Fight to Keep DACA

PHOENIX — Immigrants are vowing to fight to stay in the U.S. and advocates are launching campaigns including fundraisers and registration drives after the Trump administration announced it would dismantle a program that protected hundreds of thousands of young people from deportation.

Immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children or whose families overstayed visas said they are veterans of setbacks in the political arena. They added that they are also accustomed to being persistent, and they pledge to do the same in this situation.

Zaida Mendez, a 19-year-old community college student who juggles jobs at a grocery store and a shoe store in the Omaha area, said she plans to work with advocacy groups to try to pressure the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation to protect immigrant youths.

Mendez’s parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 1, and she didn’t realize she was in the country illegally for years. She was among about 200 people who protested Trump’s decision outside the Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln on Tuesday.

“I’m mad and I’m sad, but I’m not going to let that get to me,” she said through tears.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that former President Barack Obama started in 2012. Those already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. If their permits expire before March, 5, 2018, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5. But the program isn’t accepting new applications.

Opponents of the program said they are pleased the Trump administration’s decision. They called DACA an unconstitutional abuse of executive power.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who made Tuesday’s announcement, said DACA was an overreach that could not be defended by the Justice Department. The Trump administration and other DACA opponents argue that it is up to Congress to decide how to deal with such immigrants.

Immigrants and activists have already launched efforts to fight the decision.

A group that supports the program in Arizona is using a community summit this weekend to hold a session on DACA and reapplying. Another is holding an information session on Wednesday on the program.

Maxima Guerrero, a leadership development coordinator for the Phoenix-based advocacy group Aliento, said her organization is considering creating a fundraising campaign to help DACA recipients renew before the October deadline.

“A lot of it right now is just kind of like first, taking the time to reflect on what the decision means, and what is happening. Making sure that people who are able to renew will have the support to do so,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero, who is also enrolled in the program, said advocates will also focus on providing emotional support during what many consider an emotionally taxing time.

“It’s kind of tough because when something like this happens, it’s like, what am I working for? I think a lot of it so far that has worked is just making sure we’re providing the space and the opportunity to have those spaces to talk about how they’re feeling to be able to reflect and to acknowledge and push the message that DACA does not define who we are as individuals and who we are as people overall,” she said.

Supporters of the program demonstrated in New York City, where police handcuffed and removed over a dozen immigration activists who briefly blocked Trump Tower, and in other cities, including Salt Lake City, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Portland, Oregon. At some demonstrations, counter-protesters showed their support for Trump’s decision.

John Willis, an Ontario, California resident and handyman demonstrated in Los Angeles and carried a sign that read, “American lives matter.”

“I’m here to support our president and our Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind this unlawful tyrannical executive order that our previous president thrust upon us,” Willis said. “I’m not a hater, I don’t wish these kids to be sent back to Mexico or anything like that but I don’t believe we should have two sets of laws. We have one set of laws, we should follow them.”

Karen Marin, of New York, said that while she was disappointed that DACA is ending, she has survived without it before and can again now. Marin, 26, was brought to the United States from Mexico as a baby. She’s used her deferred action status to get a job that helps pay for college, where she is studying biotechnology.

She says the end of DACA doesn’t mean the end of her dreams.

“It’s just temporary status. It’s not anything that is a permanent fix, and that’s what we need, is something permanent. Something to help us continue moving forward as citizens of the United States because that’s what we are,” Marin said.

Diana Platas, a DACA recipient in Texas whose family lost their home in Hurricane Harvey, said the end of the program wasn’t going to stop her.

“We’re gonna continue to fight and we’re gonna continue to push forward because we’re not cowards. We know that we are doing and contributing the best that we can to this economy to this country because we call this our home. This is our home,” Platas said.

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