LOS ANGELES — Southland Democratic leaders and immigrant advocates lashed out harshly Sept. 5 at the Trump administration decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected an estimated 800,000 people who were brought to the country as children from deportation.
Activists immediately planned to take to the streets to protest the move, which was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on behalf of President Donald Trump.
“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,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“Today’s decision is a giant setback for America, because all our children should feel safe and accepted in a country that belongs to them,” Garcetti said. “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has allowed close to 800,000 ambitious, patriotic young people to start careers, stay in school, and give back to our communities without fear of being torn from the people they love.”
“I urge Congress to act as quickly as possible to pass legislation to protect the beneficiaries of DACA, giving millions of our relatives, friends and neighbors the security and peace of mind that they deserve. … They belong here. And we’ll fight for them to stay.”
Under the action by the Trump administration, Congress will be given six months to attempt to pass legislation addressing DACA before the program is phased out.
In defending the decision, Trump said President Barack Obama over-stepped his authority in creating the DACA program.
“In June of 2012, President Obama bypassed Congress to give work permits, Social Security numbers and federal benefits to approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants currently between the ages of 15 and 36,” Trump said. “The typical recipients of this executive amnesty, known as DACA, are in their 20s. Legislation offering these same benefits had been introduced in Congress on numerous occasions and rejected each time.”
Trump added: “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.”
Those arguments did little to appease Democratic lawmakers.
California Sen. Kamala Harris said DACA recipients “make our nation strong and represent the best of America” and rescinding the program “undermines our nation’s values and is a cruel betrayal” of these young people.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, criticized the “cruel and arbitrary attack” on them.
California’s other senator, Dianne Feinstein, urged Congress to move forward with legislation known as the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would provide a path to citizenship for DREAMers — the term used for DACA recipients.
“Failure to protect young people who have come out of the shadows would constitute an abject moral failure,” Feinstein said.
Officials with the Service Employees International Union decried what it called a “shameful attack” against DACA beneficiaries.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said members were ready to gather at the offices of Republican legislators, including Rep. Steven Knight in Santa Clarita and Rep. Mimi Walters in Irvine, as well as Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s office in Bakersfield.
Additionally, scores of workers and community members planned a midday march through downtown L.A. Sept. 5.
The march will include janitorial workers, airport service workers, community leaders, local youth leaders and members of the clergy, according to the SEIU.
Introduced by Obama in 2012, DACA allows people who were brought into the United States illegally as children to work and study in the country without fear of being deported. DACA has been available to immigrants without criminal records who were brought to the country when they were younger than 16 years old. Work permits issued under DACA must be renewed every two years.
Trump has taken a hard stance against illegal immigration, but until recently had not given a strong indication of whether he would keep DACA in place.
Asked over the weekend whether DACA recipients should be worried, Trump responded, “We love the DREAMers. We love everybody. … We think the DREAMers are terrific.”
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, is one of many elected officials of both parties who have criticized the president’s plans.
“Trump’s cowardly decision to end DACA goes against the very forces that have made America an exceptional country,” Lieu said. “Deporting hundreds of thousands of Asians and Latinos — nearly half of whom were brought to the U.S. before the age of 7 — is not only cruel, it will hurt our economy.”