Trump administration ends DACA, passes ball to Congress

Tatiana Sanchez| San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article

DACA recipient Flor Martinez attends a rally following President Trump's rescindment of the program, Monday, Sept. 5, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

DACA recipient Flor Martinez attends a rally following President Trump's rescindment of the program, Monday, Sept. 5, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he’s ending DACA, the Obama-era program that granted deportation relief to hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants, has put San Jose history teacher Erick Silva-Palacios in “a six-month purgatory.”

“I’m not shocked, I think that we were expecting it,” Silva-Palacios said as he shuttled ninth-graders into his classroom at the Ace Charter School in San Jose. “But I think once it was actually announced, that’s when things got real. That’s when the questions started rolling in: ‘What am I going to do?'”

Trump’s highly anticipated announcement has plunged the nation’s estimated 800,000 Dreamers — 220,000 in California — into newly uncertain territory, as they come to terms with the loss of their legal protections. The White House will give Congress a six-month window to act on the issue, leaving the fate of Dreamers in their hands.

What will happen at the end of six months isn’t clear. Trump tweeted late Tuesday that if Congress can’t figure out how to legalize the program, he will revisit the issue.

The administration’s initial announcement, made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sparked widespread protests, tears and waves of condemnation in the Bay Area from immigrant advocates, Dreamers, educators, politicians and business leaders, who argued the administration is punishing productive young people — such as Silva-Palacios — who did nothing wrong. Students in Denver walked out of school to protest the decision, and dozens were arrested during protests at Trump Tower in New York City. Other activists were arrested during a sit-in outside the White House.

At San Jose State’s library, more than 200 DACA recipients and their allies shed tears, while sporadically breaking into chants of “Si se puede,” or “Yes we can!”

Flor Martinez was just 3 when she was brought to this country from Jalisco, Mexico.

“Ever since then, I have been split between two lands and have become the bridge between two countries,” said Martinez, who was 18 when she was granted DACA status. “I have felt fearless ever since. It has removed any limits, it has allowed me to reach my highest potential. Removing DACA is going to limit what America’s future looks like.”

More than a thousand people packed onto the sidewalk outside San Francisco’s federal building Tuesday afternoon, chanting and waving signs. Carina Barnett-Loro, 30, who lives in SF, had glued a photo of “my friend Juan” on her sign.

“I think it’s really important to make it personal,” she said, tearing up. “These are my friends, my co-workers, a lot of people’s family members.”

In a statement Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it “a sad day for our country.” Zuckerberg founded the immigration advocacy group in 2013 and is among dozens of tech leaders to speak out against the decision.

“The decision to end DACA is not just wrong,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.”

While new applications for work permits from Dreamers will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two years from Tuesday, Trump said.

Applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration. Meanwhile, permits will not begin to expire until March, and will remain active for up to 24 months, Trump said, adding, “This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out.”

Trump, who had pledged to rescind DACA on the campaign trail, called the program an unconstitutional overreach by his predecessor and urged Congress to pass “responsible immigration reform” while DACA goes through what he called a “wind-down.”

In a lengthy statement following Sessions’ announcement, Trump said “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”

The American Civil Liberties Union disagreed. “President Trump’s decision to abandon the DACA program is a political decision,” the ACLU said, “not a legal one.”

The decision landed on the deadline given by several Republican-led states to repeal DACA or face a lawsuit over what they said was the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration laws. Critics say the program wrongfully rewards people who are in the country illegally, granting them “amnesty.”

DACA — established five years ago as an executive order under President Barack Obama — has provided temporary deportation relief, work permits and, in some states, driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.

“Undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own are working, going to school, living their lives, and contributing billions to the American economy,’ said Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland and Berkeley. “For five years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has allowed these innocent young adults to remain united with their families and safely reside in their communities.”

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said the cancellation of DACA created “a moral emergency for our nation.”

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, predicted the consequences of the action would be “devastating.”

“These young people deserve better than that,” Harris said.

Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he’s prepared to sue the administration over its decision, arguing that ending DACA violates the Constitution. Supporters of the policy argue that after luring immigrants out of the shadows with the promise of legality, the government cannot now use the information that young Dreamers volunteered to deport them.

But Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, of Laguna Niguel, defended the president’s decision to rescind what she called “an unconstitutional executive order” — while calling on Congress to pass new legislation to protect youth brought to the country illegally as children.

“It is imperative that Congress pass a lasting legislative solution that will ensure that 800,000 young people, who have done nothing wrong, can continue to pursue their educations, careers and contributions to our great nation,” Bates said. “This will only happen with bipartisan leadership from Congress and the president.”