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Dream deferred: DACA repeal places 800,000 Dreamers at risk for deportation

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The news that the Trump administration would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) wasn’t surprising, but it was nonetheless demoralizing for tens of thousands of immigrants who were granted work permits and protection from deportation under the program.

It was early morning on Tuesday, Sept. 5 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions said what every “Dreamer” (the nickname given DACA recipients) had been dreading: “I’m here to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama Administration is being rescinded.”

The news directly impacts roughly 800,000 DACA recipients—many of whom have only known the United States as their home—as well as the families, friends and communities that surround them.

“I don’t want to say ‘devastating’ because I want to let our community know that this isn’t the end, and not to panic,” said Gerardo Gomez, a DACA recipient who was diagnosed with HIV three years ago. “Our work permits are still valid until they expire … It’s not the end, you might feel sad now, but remember that there’s a vast network of people who have your back and we’re fighting for you now and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released few details about the phasing out of the program, it did announced that it won’t accept any new DACA applications. DACA will remain in effect though for those who have already received it. Recipients whose DACA and work permits expire by March 5, 2018 will be eligible to apply for renewal by Oct. 5, 2017.

“That is 30 days to file a renewal application,” said Ana Herrera, managing attorney with Dolores Street Community Services. “The administration also announced that they will not be considering any new advanced parole requests [which are required for recipients to travel outside the country]. This is the nuts and bolts of the decision that was announced today.”

A couple hours after Sessions made the announcement, various immigrant rights, civil rights and faith groups from around the Bay Area held a news conference at the steps of San Francisco City Hall.

“It is young people today who are sitting in hunger strike outside of the White House, protesting the decision of President Trump,” District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim said at the conference. “But we know that DACA is a ‘bandage solution.’ We need comprehensive immigration reform now, and it cannot wait any longer … But more importantly than ever before, it is important that we don’t let an individual [President Trump] elected through a flawed and unfair process, where you can win the White House without the popular vote, define what America is.”

The six-month delay will give Congress a small window to pass some sort of immigration reform.

“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit the issue!” President Trump tweeted.   

After the decision was announced, Barack Obama tweeted: “To target hopeful young strivers who grew up here is wrong, because they’ve done nothing wrong.”

Hundreds of protesters and DACA recipients stood outside of the San Francisco Federal Building on Sept. 5, holding Anti-Trump posters and chanting “Trump and Pence go away, Dreamers stay.”

Law enforcement tried containing the large crowd to the sidewalks, but the demonstration grew and grew until it spilled into the streets, causing downtown traffic to come to a halt. Eventually everyone made their way to City Hall where some DACA recipients shared their stories.

“I want to thank the Dreamers for their leadership,” renowned civil rights activist Dolores Huerta told El Tecolote. “They’re at the front of the march, they’re out there showing people how you can make significant and major changes for yourself and for your community. I think it’s interesting because they have the whole country rattled… I’m in total admiration of them because of their leadership and their resistance.”

Huerta, an iconic figure during the farmworker, feminist and Chicana movements, has a message for activists:

“The only thing I want to say to the Dreamers is to be careful that [Trump Administration] do not use the Dreamer issue to divide us. To divide us in the Latino community. That they’re not gonna say ‘Okay, we’re going to give you DACA, but you gotta take the wall with DACA. And I think that may be the Republican strategy and so we have to be very careful of that.”

Story by: Alejandro Galicia Diaz