Federal, state and local elected officials on Tuesday expressed dismay at news that the Trump administration is actively attempting to end an Obama-era immigration policy.
Under DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, undocumented children who were brought to the United States by their parents received a renewable two-year period of deferred action of deportation and were eligibile for a work permit.
District 80 Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who represents the majority of Chula Vista and National City called the attack on DACA “personal” because not only does her district cover DACA participants, some of her staff and former interns benefitted from DACA.
“These are folks who’ve done everything right,” she said. “Everything right, and we are going to penalize them, what kind of cruelty is the Republican Party that they think it’s appropriate to punish these children?”
President Donald Trump said in a statement that ending DACA was about protecting the constitution and upholding immigration law.
“At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” he said.
“But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
DACA’s expiration will not happen immediately. Trump called on Congress to find a viable solution to immigration reform and the future of DACA within six months.
Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who represents the 79th assembly district that includes portions of San Diego, Chula Vista, National City and all of Lemon Grove and La Mesa, said removing DACA is destroying the lives of many of her constituents.
“This action does not serve justice or the public good. These people are blameless. They were brought here as children from –all over the world—and this is their home,” Weber said. “The administration’s decision to rescind DACA will upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of our friends, family, neighbors and employees for, it seems, political leverage. Those of us who are not affected by this now have an obligation to stand up for those who are.”
Gonzalez Fletcher said leaving DACA to Congress is a tough task considering Congress hasn’t been able to pass anything under the Trump administration. But she said it’s still important to let congress know the importance of DACA.
“We are going to press Congress, we are going to put together a plan now how we as assembly members can reach out to different Republican Congress members,” she said.
“Bring them real life DREAMers to see in person to see what they are doing to these folks if they don’t vote to establish a DREAM Act and we are going to continue to fight. We are going to be vocal, we are going to protect every student that we can, every dreamer that we can, everybody who’s here and has been doing nothing wrong and just want to make good in the only country that they’ve only known as home.”
At the local level, National City Mayor Ron Morrison submitted a letter to a Congregational Delegation early Tuesday morning asking they formalize the DACA program into legislation.
Morrison called the ending of DACA “inhumane” and said Congress should not wait a full six months to find a new solution, one he said should include a path to citizenship.
“They need to come up with some legislation, look at the things within DACA that work, and things that don’t,” Morrison said. “These (DACA) individuals have been here all their life. They are U.S. Citizens as far as from a standpoint. They are American as you can get.”
At Southwestern College, President Kindred Murillo said she does not want students to worry about the college providing personal information to an agency without permission of the student or court order. She said the college will stick by their student privacy laws.
Murillo said she does not know how many DACA students attend SWC.
She said the college is looking for guidance from the California State Community College Chancellor’s office in how to move forward without DACA.
“We are doing everything we can to help our students,” she said. “We want to make sure when our students are at SWC that they feel wanted here and they know we are going to support them.”
Immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs said despite the news of DACA’s demise, DACA participants “should not panic” because the program is not automatically disappearing in six-months. She said people who have work permits that are valid for longer than a six month period will be able to keep their work permits and continue to be in DACA status and continue to work legally.
Jacobs said for those people whose status will expire in six months they should plan for renewal.
“They should also focus on advocating for a legislative solution,” she said.
“Right now, the President has thrown the solution to congress and congress needs to act. And we need all of our young people and all of our community members speaking out and calling their senators and calling their congress people to advocate for the DREAM Act so that we can resolve this situation within the next six months legislatively and that people won’t end up falling through the cracks.”
Jacobs said most DACA recipients don’t have a pathway for citizenship and about 20 percent of them may be eligible for another form of immigration release.
The termination of DACA comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by several states to end the policy, calling the program unlawful. Attorneys General in 10 states were willing to drop the suit if Trump took action before Tuesday’s deadline.
With the recinding of the immigration policy it looks like Trump may have new lawsuits on his hands as Attorneys Generals in Washington state and New York have already threatened legal action to keep DACA alive.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about 1.4 million DACA requests were accepted since program’s inception in June 2012.
The Department of Homeland Security noted that existing DACA participants whose eligibility expire between now and March 5 to apply for renewal. Each renewal case will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.