By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Joan Creighton Little, via Facebook
Updated Sept. 10 to include comments from Rep. Duncan Hunter and candidate Josh Butner.
September 6, 2017 (San Diego) -- President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has announced he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that shields young people brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. But he gave Congress six months to pass legislation to change that, leaving an estimated 800,000 “dreamers” in limbo, fearful of being sent back to homelands that some don’t even remember, places where dangers caused many of their families to flee and seek safety in the U.S.
These young people are innocent of crimes and are productive members of American society. They are not criminals. Nobody eligible for DACA can have a criminal record of any felony or misdemeanor, nor pose any security threat to the U.S. The Washington Post has reported that 97 percent of the “dreamers” protected by DACA are either working or students in school. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies have employees who are DACA recipients, according to a letter signed by the companies and sent to President Trump asking that DACA not be repealed.
Around a thousand DACA recipients are also currently serving in the U.S. military, McClatchy News Service reports. Many of those play critical roles in the military as translators since they speak a variety of languages needed, but now face deportation. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has reportedly opposed rescinding DACA.
California has more DACA recipients than any other state—around 200,000 young people, or 1 in 4 of al DACA recipients. There are also an estimated 68,000 dreamers in Houston, still reeling from the hurricane and flood loss tragedies, and now fearing they could be forced to leave the U.S. That includes heroes like Jesus Contreras, a 23-year-old paramedic who rescued many flood victims in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. He says, “We’re as American as we can be,” NBC reports. Another heroic DACA recipient lost his life attempting to save others in Houston’s floods, People Magazine reported.
DACA was an executive order issued by President Barack Obama after Congress failed to pass any comprehensive immigration reform. Trump’s order repeals DACA and also immediately halts any new admissions to the program, while Congress must again determine whether or not to protect these vulnerable young people.
The Dream Act has failed every time it was introduced in Congress previously, due to obstruction by Republicans who now control both the House and Senate. However there are some signs that could change.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, in a radio interview just before the Trump administration revoked DACA, stated, “I don’t think he should do that. I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, also voiced support for keeping the DACA program earlier this month, according to NBC. Democrats, meanwhile, remain united in both houses in favor of protecting dreamers and restoring DACA.
Locally, all three Democratic Congressional members have been outspoken in support of DACA. San Diego Congresswoman Susan Davis calls it a “rousing success,” noting that Dreamers are earning an average of $17 an hour and nearly half are in school. “Over the next decade, dreamers are expected to contribute half a trillion in economic activity,” Davis notes, adding, “The dreamers are contributing to America in a positive way and they should be allowed to keep contributing.”
Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from San Diego, seemed to support Trump’s action, calling Obama’s unilateral creation of DACA unlawful. But he noted that the onus is now on Congress to address the challenge for the long-haul, “with respect for our nation’s laws, a desire to enhance the integrity of our borders, and a sense of compassion to those who were brought here in their childhood years ago and wish to stay as productive members of our communities.”
Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter has previously voiced support for ending the DACA program. Following Trump's announcement to repeal DACA, Hunter stated, ""President Trump is aiming to keep families together and uphold his commitment to address the immigration issue in a way that’s consistent with his promises," a disengenuous answer since Trump's action tears immigrant families apart, and does not keep them together unless Congress acts.
Hunter;s Democratic opponent Ammar Campa Najjar, is speaking out. “Shame on you, Donald Trump, for breaking your promise to these dreamers. You met with DACA recipients and you assured them that you were `going to deal with DACA with heart,’” Campa Najjar recalls. “Let’s restore that promise and call on Congress to pass the DREAM Act and permanent protect these young people and allow them a chance at the American Dream.”
Josh Butner, a Navy Seal also running against Hunter, spoke out in favor of protecting DACA recipients. "We are a nation of immigrants, and stronger for it. When I was a new SEAL medic, one of our most respected senior SEAL medics was an immigrant from Central America -- who became a citizen after multiple tours of duty, proudly serving our country. The lack of leadership on DACA is outrageous. It is time for Congress to come forward and right this wrong, head on".
Across the nation, thousands have taken to the streets to rally in support of protecting the dreamers, including a rally in San Diego that drew a large crowd.
Activist Martha Sullivan denounced, the President’s threat against 800,000 young people for whom America is home, including 68,000 in hurricane-ravaged Houston, stating “This is not only the essence of bullying, it is sadism.”
San Diego State University’s student body president and other officers have sent a letter to President Trump urging him to retain the DACA program. The letter notes that SDSU is one of the most diverse universities in our nation, adding, “This diversity is critical to preparing our students to work in San Diego’s binational economy and a global workforce. Our students, regardless of their immigration status, are valued members of our educational community.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, issued a statement calling on Congress to protect the dreamers. “We are not going to fix our immigration problems on the backs of innocent children,” the Mayor states, adding, “The young men and women here under DACA, many who are living in the only country they have ever known, are students, innovators, business owners, and veterans who enrich our country and contribute to our economy and our culture.”