Leaders on the local, state and national level reacted quickly and vocally Tuesday in publicly denouncing the Trump administration’s decision to dissolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement during a press conference that day, saying the Obama administration immigration policy– which, for five years, has allowed certain illegal immigrants who entered the US as minors to receive eligibility for a work permit and a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation– was implemented unilaterally to controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected multiple proposals to extend similar benefits to “this same group of illegal aliens.”
“In other words, the [Obama] executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” Sessions said. “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
One local elected official who was particularly critical of the decision is Long Beach 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga, who said “this president is the one we expected to have: without political experience, without concern for the poor and underserved, without filters and without the rule of law.”
Uranga lambasted Trump for having pardoned a convicted racial profiler and implicitly giving voice to outliers such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo Nazis before generalizing about the youth, often referred to as Dreamers, who have benefited from DACA.
“We have a president who can rescind DACA and characterize its 800,000 participants as criminals– subject to deportation– use public funds to build a wall and still profess to be a compassionate president,” Uranga wrote in a statement released Tuesday night. “A crime is being committed against people of color and the poor. It is a shame when public-policy issues such as those the president fights to defeat become political platforms to keep his political base strong. It is a travesty, it is shameless and it is devoid of honor. I, unequivocally, denounce the president’s actions and call for people to continue the resistance needed to right the wrongs perpetrated by the Trump presidency.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who, at age 5, immigrated to the US from Peru, also released a statement Tuesday– as well as on Aug. 31, when it became apparent that Trump would likely repeal DACA– saying that the city will remain one that welcomes and supports all people.
“The DACA program has allowed young people who came to our country as children to work, advance their education and start small businesses,” the mayor wrote. “By ending the DACA program, we are denying young people the same opportunity that I received when I immigrated to the United States. We are denying talented young people the chance to contribute to our nation. We made these Dreamers a promise, and if the president breaks that promise, we will do everything we can to continue to support them. I urge members of Congress to pass legislation that protects the thousands of hardworking DACA beneficiaries that make our economy and communities stronger.”
One of those congressmembers– Alan Lowenthal, the Representative for California’s 47th District– said ending DACA is simply un-American, adding that the US would be exiling 800,000 young adults and children from the only country many of them have ever known, to unfamiliar countries.
“Their life is here and, for the most part, always has been,” Lowenthal wrote in a statement released Tuesday morning. “They are Americans in all but their birth certificates.”
The congressmember said ending DACA would do nothing to address the real problems posed by the country’s broken immigration system but rather would jeopardize the progress DACA has made to bring undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows.” Lowenthal also stated it would stoke uncertainty in immigrant communities and add fire to the heated anti-immigrant rhetoric seen on last year’s campaign trail and during rallies since January.
“Since 2012, DACA has provided hundreds of thousands of young adults with a measure of certainty and the opportunity to study, work and provide for their family and community,” Lowenthal continued. “Many of these young adults are our neighbors, classmates and co-workers. Over 230,000 individuals in LA and Orange counties are DACA-eligible. This decision is an injustice to them, to their families and to our community.”
Lowenthal called for a comprehensive solution to fix the immigration system and said that work begins by granting some measure of certainty to families already in the US.
“The fact is that DACA is working,” Lowenthal wrote. “Recent surveys indicate that 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed. Further, these immigrants are starting new businesses at almost double the rate of the general population. Overall, they would potentially contribute over $460 billion to our economy over the next decade.”
Lowenthal added that there is bipartisan agreement in Congress that the Dreamers should not be punished.
“Thirteen Republicans in the House and four Republican senators have co-sponsored legislation to codify the protections of the DACA program,” he wrote. “These young people want to work hard and build a life here in America. We shouldn’t erect barriers between them and success, but I’m afraid the president’s action [Tuesday] would do just that.”
Some of that bipartisan support of DACA was seen in California as well. Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (Yucca Valley) released a statement Tuesday that also called on Congress to view the decision as a wake-up call for changes to immigration policy.
“If today’s decision by the president to abandon DACA doesn’t force Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, I don’t know what will,” Mayes wrote. “Much like the children of the immigrants who built this country, these children followed their parents to America, and to send them home would mean sending them to a country they’ve never known. These are our neighbors. They attend our schools, they speak English, they pay taxes and they played by the rules. America should not be in the business of deporting children who came to this country through no fault of their own.”
One state leader, however, may not wait for Congress to take action.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he is prepared to sue the administration over its decision.
“President Trump has turned his back on hundreds of thousands of children and young Americans who came forward and put their trust in our government,” Becerra wrote in a statement released Tuesday. “But in terminating DACA, the Trump Administration has also violated the Constitution and federal law. This administration has chosen to ignore what American voters have said they think is right. Nearly 80 percent of voters want to protect the legal status of Dreamers. Ending the program is devastating not just for recipients, but for our economy.”
Becerra said California businesses would lose more than a billion dollars in turnover costs.
“Attorney General Sessions claims this decision is full of ‘compassion,’ but real compassion would be treating Dreamers ‘with heart,’ as President Trump himself said,” Becerra wrote. “California is taking action because one in four DACA grantees live in our great state. I will do everything I can to fight for them.”
In July, Becerra led 20 attorneys general in sending a letter to the president urging him to maintain and defend DACA. In the letter, the attorneys general explain how the program has benefited their states and the nation as a whole and call on Trump to fulfill his publicly made commitment to Dreamers, whom he called “incredible kids” who should be treated “with heart,” according to the California attorney general’s office.
Roughly a quarter of all DACA grantees, or more than 220,000 young people, live in California, according to Becerra’s office. A high concentration of those Dreamers– nearly 100,000– live in Los Angeles County, according to Janice Hahn, the supervisor for the county’s 4th district.
Hahn also released a statement supporting the Dreamers program and attended a DACA rally in Los Angeles Tuesday that included that city’s mayor– Eric Garcetti– and 1st District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis.
While serving in Congress, Hahn was a notable supporter of DACA during its implementation, and her office assisted local young people signing up for the program.
“My heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of young people who, in the wake of today’s announcement, are wondering if they will be able to finish college, keep their dream jobs or even continue living in the only country they have called home,” Hahn wrote in a statement her office released Tuesday. “DACA recipients are teachers, valedictorians, entrepreneurs and military service members. A young Dreamer and DACA recipient works in my office, and I have seen him go above and beyond to help my constituents. I will do everything I can to support Dreamers in LA County, and I urge my former colleagues in Congress to step up and pass the Dream Act to restore these protections and calm the fears of hundreds of thousands of families across the country.”
Another Southern California leader who expressed sympathy for the Dreamers, mixed with harsh criticism for Trump, is State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who said DACA has allowed young people who grew up as Americans to finally pursue their educations and careers out of the shadows.
“The level of cruelty that President Trump has shown in ending the program is unconscionable, and he continues to pick on our most vulnerable like a bully,” Lara wrote in a statement released Tuesday. “Ending DACA puts the futures of thousands of Dreamers in jeopardy who are going to school and working just as we asked them to.”
Lara also wrote that Trump, whose companies continue to import workers from abroad, is a “cynical manipulator.”
“Republicans’ unrelenting assault on immigrants, and especially Latinos, is awakening a generation of young Americans to the threat to our country’s diversity and economic future, just as Proposition 187 did in California more than 20 years ago,” Lara wrote. “California is being called to lead and be the moral compass for our country. I have introduced Senate Bill 573 so that DACA recipients who are in California universities can continue their studies and empower themselves.”
The state senator added that the UC and CSU systems have been waiting to see what Trump will do and that leaders and educational institutions now have the opportunity to show they care about students and use all legislative and legal options to protect DACA recipients.
“Republicans in Congress also must join with Democrats in a bipartisan effort to pass the Dream Act with a path to citizenship and commit not to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip to build Trump’s border wall of hate and division,” Lara wrote.
Long Beach’s university and city college are both offering guidance and assistance to Dreamers.
“Because of this current uncertainty, I want to assure all members of our undocumented community that we have campus services available to you,” wrote Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley, in a letter published on the school’s website. “A first stop should be our Dreamers Success Center at USU 309. There, you can be referred for counseling, food and housing support, and other services. The Division of Student Affairs and our Human Resources Department have a number of other areas where support and services are available.”
(More information on that center is available at csulb.edu/dream.)
“I also want to reduce any confusion that may result from this announcement,” Conoley wrote. “Long Beach State University is committed to every student who has met our rigorous standards for admission and retention, and we value every employee. Know that this announcement will not affect the AB540 status that the state of California has provided. Students currently eligible for AB540 will continue to be eligible for in-state tuition and the financial support for which they are qualified.”
She added that Long Beach State University’s General Order 55 provides clear guidance to campus police officers, who will not cooperate with ICE, and they will not inquire about or detain persons solely based on their immigration status.
Long Beach City College Superintendent-President Reagan Romali this week wrote that the college is committed to supporting students and maintaining a safe campus for all.
“We are dedicated to our mission of education and will continue to nurture an open campus and offer educational opportunities to all students, regardless of immigration status,” Romali wrote Tuesday. “As of today, we have begun to schedule special workshops, and we are offering crisis counseling for any student directly or indirectly affected by President Trump’s decision. Long Beach City College will act in accordance with the mission and values of the California Community Colleges system, which include not releasing personally identifiable student information, including data related to immigration status, without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order, unless authorized by the student or required by law.”
The college also released the following information regarding upcoming workshops and counseling for DACA recipients:
Group Support for DACA Students: Dealing with Chronic Stress
These workshops will assist with tips for how to cope with the impact of chronic life stressors.
Liberal Arts Campus
Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 1pm to 2pm, location TBA
Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 2pm to 3pm, location TBA
Pacific Coast Campus
Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 9am to 10am, location TBA
Wednesday, Sept. 20 from 9am to 10am, location TBA
Drop-in times with mental-health professionals at Student Health Services are for immediate support of DACA students. Once students have had an initial meeting with the Mental Health Services team, they may wish to access additional or more regular support with clinicians by appointment. This can be scheduled through Student Health Services.
Liberal Arts Campus: A1010
Friday, Sept. 8 from 9:30am to 10:30am
Monday, Sept. 11 from 1pm to 2pm
Tuesday, Sept. 12 from 10:30am to 11:30am
Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 3pm to 4pm
Friday, Sept. 15 from 10:30am to 11:30am
Pacific Coast Campus: GG117
Tuesday, Sept. 12 from 1pm to 2pm
Thursday, Sept. 14 from 10am to 11am
Drop-in times with mental-health professionals at the Counseling Office are for immediate support of DACA students with LBCC counselors.
Liberal Arts Campus: A1111
Friday, Sept. 8 from 8am to 11am and from noon to 4pm
Monday, Sept. 11 from 8:30am to 11am
Tuesday, Sept. 12 from 12:30pm to 7pm
Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 8am to 4pm
Thursday, Sept. 14 from 8:30am to noon
Friday, Sept. 15 from 8am to 11am and from noon to 4pm
Pacific Coast Campus: GG202
Friday, Sept. 8 from 8:30am to 1:30pm
Monday, Sept. 11 from 9am to 5pm
Tuesday, Sept. 12 from 8am to noon
Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 1pm to 4pm
Friday, Sept. 15 from 10am to 1:30pm
LBCC will be updating these and other resources via its website (events.lbcc.edu/detail.cfm?eventid=3431&pagerefer=home) as it confirms locations, dates and times.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Tuesday called Trump’s decision “cowardly” and said his decision is a callous one that plays politics with Dreamers’ lives.
“With today’s announcement, we see Trump’s true values once again,” Padilla wrote. “Just over a week after granting a pardon to a sheriff convicted of violating the civil rights of Latinos, Trump seeks to revoke protections which have allowed young adults throughout the country to achieve the American Dream.”
Padilla said the president alone can save DACA but he is choosing not to.
“By punting to Congress, he is attempting to wash his hands of responsibility,” Padilla wrote. “California will hold the line. California stands with Dreamers. We will continue to insist on humane treatment and justice for Dreamers and their families. For the leaders of both parties who have spoken for years about a legislative fix for DACA, the time to act, with real heart, is now.”
In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump wrote, “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”