Scores of people rallied on the steps of the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday to protest President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the Obama-era program known as DACA.
The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has granted nearly 800,000 immigrants who came to the country as children temporary protection from deportation along with the ability to work.
DACA recipients and their supporters held up signs that read “Demand Action Now” and chanted slogans such as “immigrant power” and “Trump, escucha, estamos en la lucha (Trump, listen, we are fighting).”
Melody Klingenfuss of the California Dream Network said immigrant rights advocates must fight for “a clean permanent solution” like the Dream Act, which if passed would provide a path to citizenship for
DACA recipients sometimes called dreamers.
“We need a solution for ourselves and for our families,” she said. “Today is not the end of us, it’s actually a day when we rise up and hear me out, we will rise up.”
DACA recipient Diana Ramos, who was choking back tears, said the program has allowed her to study, finish her bachelor’s degree and graduate this past May.
“Today, we stand up as a community and say we will not be defeated,” she told the crowd. “We will continue registering voters, we will continue to march, we will continue to protest, we will continue to move our brothers and sisters who can vote to vote and to make their voices heard.”
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, called Trump’s decision to end DACA “outrageous.”
“Today was a dark day for justice but the light of freedom, the light of liberty shines in our hearts,” Salas said. “We do believe in those values of America. We actually believe in our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our Pledge of Allegiance that says liberty and justice for all.”
Salas also said she wanted “responsibility” from Congress, which has failed to pass the Dream Act or comprehensive immigration reform in the last 15 years.
“We are asking Congress ‘do your job,” she said. “We’re asking the president ‘have a little bit of heart.’”
Meanwhile, across the street, Arthur Schaper of Torrance was chanting through a bullhorn, congratulating Trump for ending the “unconstitutional” DACA program. “The six-months (delay in ending the program) should be just enough time for parents who are here illegally, I presume in many cases, to go back to their home countries and get in line and come in legally,” Schaper said in an interview. “American dreamers first.”
John Willis, of Ontario, said he also came to celebrate the decision.
His wife came to this country illegally from Mexico 18 years ago but she was eventually able to get legal status through a sister who had legal status, he said.
When asked what Willis would have done if his wife did not have a sibling to help her obtain legal status, he acknowledged he would have been faced with a dilemma.
“At a certain point, I would have to decide do I love her enough to follow her to Mexico or just continue to break the laws?” he said. “If we all didn’t want to follow this posted speed limit on the street, there would be mass chaos and mangled and strewn bodies all over. Why do we think we don’t have to follow these immigration laws?”
Judy London of Public Counsel, a pro bono public interest law firm, told DACA recipients that if they have work permits, they will be valid until their expiration date.
For those recipients who have work permits that have an expiration date before March 5, 2018, they have a “brief window” of 30 days to renew that work permit, London said. She warned that DACA recipients should not leave the country even if they have advanced parole. For those who are already outside the country, she said border agents now have the discretion on whether they will let them back into the country.