An array of Bay Area elected officials and leaders denounced President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to end a program allowing young undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
At the same time, the officials called on Congress to revive the program by enacting it into law. Some also promised to participate in lawsuits to challenge the Trump administration’s action.
The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was established in 2012 through an executive order by President Barack Obama. It covers approximately 800,000 young people, sometimes known as Dreamers, who arrived in the U.S. as children.
California is home to about 223,000 of the Dreamers.
In an action announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump rescinded Obama’s order, but allowed for what Sessions called an “orderly, lawful wind-down” of the program. He and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said Congress could enact a program through legislation if it wishes to do so.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, called the president’s action “a cruel betrayal” of the young immigrants and said it undermines our nation’s values.
“The consequences of this decision will be devastating. It will split up families, force young people back to countries they never knew, and cost our economy billions of dollars. It is heartless,”
Harris urged members of Congress to “roll up our sleeves and stand with these young people” by enacting a bipartisan law to resume the program.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said: “Congressional action is now the only way to guarantee that DACA recipients are shielded from deportation, and it must be our top priority.”
U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, also called on Congress to step in to enact the program into law.
Eshoo said more than 787,000 individuals have received relief from deportation under the DACA program, allowing them to obtain work permits, pursue higher education, obtain driver’s licenses, and contribute their talents to our nation.
“These children put their faith in our government when they chose to come out of the shadows and I will fight with all that I have to ensure Congress passes legislation to overrule the president’s irresponsible action and ensure that these children can remain in the only country they have ever known,” Eshoo said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said she will be joining her colleagues, “to demand justice, and legislation, for DACA children.”
“Now more than ever, we need a pathway to citizenship for this nation’s undocumented immigrants whose only offense has been to live peacefully and productively as our neighbors without obtaining formal permission,” she said in a statement.
University of California President Janet Napolitano said, “I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s decision to effectively end the DACA program.
“I call upon the U.S. Congress to immediately pass bipartisan legislation that would provide a permanent solution for these young people,” Napolitano said.
Thousands of “Dreamers” attend or have graduated from UC, she said.
“The university and the state of California stand together in our belief that students should be admitted to UC and other institutions of higher education based on their records of achievement and without regard to their immigration status,” Napolitano said.
The San Mateo County Office of Education provided a statement from Anne E. Campbell saying the program has provided many families in our county and state with hope for an education and a brighter future.
“Students in our schools have known that with dedication and hard work, they had the chance to receive an education and become the teachers, doctors, nurses, leaders, and responsible citizens that we encourage them to be every day in class,” Campbell said. “As educators, we worry about the impact of the president’s decision on school attendance and performance. This is a tremendous psychological burden for families, and our students, teachers and schools feel it.”
In the winding-down announced by the Homeland Security Department, DACA recipients will be allowed to retain their deferred action period and work authorization documents until they expire, within two years. Renewals applied for by Oct. 5 will be considered.