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Donald Trump

‘It’s just sadness’: Dreamers say Trump’s decision to rescind DACA leaves them in limbo

Demonstrations broke out Tuesday in New York City, where police handcuffed and removed more than a dozen immigration activists who briefly blocked Trump Tower

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 3:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 7:38pm

They grew up in America and are working or going to school here. Some are building businesses or raising families of their own. Many have no memory of the country where they were born.

Now, almost 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children or overstayed their visas could see their lives upended after the Trump administration announced on Tuesday it is ending the Obama-era programme that protected them from deportation.

“We are Americans in heart, mind and soul. We just don’t have the correct documentation that states we’re American,” said Jose Rivas, 27, who is studying for a master’s in counselling at the University of Wyoming.

The news that the government is phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, known as DACA, was met with shock, anger and a sense of betrayal by its beneficiaries, often called “Dreamers”. For opponents, many said they were pleased the Trump administration had put an end to President Barack Obama’s DACA programme, calling it an unconstitutional abuse of executive power.

We are Americans in heart, mind and soul. We just don’t have the correct documentation that states we’re American
Jose Rivas, DACA applicant

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who made Tuesday’s announcement, said DACA was an “overreach” that could not be defended by the Justice Department. The Trump administration and other DACA opponents argue that it is up to Congress to decide how to deal with such immigrants.

Late on Tuesday night, Trump tweeted, however, that he might get involved in the issue if Congress does not come up with legislation. The president tweeted: “Congress now has 6 months to legalise DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”

Demonstrations broke out Tuesday in New York City, where police handcuffed and removed more than a dozen immigration activists who briefly blocked Trump Tower, and in other cities, including Salt Lake City, Denver, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. Students walked out of class in protest in several cities, including Phoenix and Albuquerque.

Attorneys general for several states threatened to sue to protect the DACA beneficiaries.

“We stand ready to take all appropriate legal action to protect Oregon’s Dreamers,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum tweeted.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican and an early Trump supporter, said the president had every right to end DACA, which was started by Obama in 2012. But he added that it would be unconscionable to deport those who benefited from the programme.

“These children grew up believing they are American, and so many of them have lived lives of which America can be proud,” Reyes said.

At a Los Angeles rally, handyman John Willis carried a sign saying “American lives matter” and criticised the DACA programme as an “unlawful tyrannical executive order that our previous president thrust upon us”.

Trump’s action received harsh reviews among those in Houston who have been helping immigrants navigate disaster relief amid fears of ramped-up deportations in the new administration.

The city is home to more than 500,000 immigrants in the country illegally, and one DACA recipient described at a news conference how her family lost everything in the storm.

Another Houston DACA beneficiary, Ricardo Ortiz, who was brought to the US from Monterrey, Mexico, at age three, has been volunteering at the downtown convention centre that sheltered thousands of storm victims.

“It’s crazy that people really think that we don’t belong here when we’ve been here all of our lives,” said Ortiz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Houston.

In Miami, Paola Martinez, 23, who is from Bogota, Colombia, sobbed as she attended a rally of about 100 immigrants. She said she will feel helpless without DACA. She recently graduated with a civil engineering degree from Florida International University.

“Instead of going a step forward, we are going a step backwards. We are hiding in the shadows again after my work [permit] expires. It’s just sadness,” she said. “You just feel like you are empty. There is no support any more.”

Donald Trump’s administration rescinds DACA, exposing young immigrants to deportation and reiterating hardline stance

Martinez said she is not able to renew her permit because it expires in 2019, so she is hoping her employer or another company sponsors her so she can stay and help support her parents, who depend on her for rides and household expenses. In Florida, immigrants who are illegally in the country cannot get driver’s licenses.

Karen Marin, a 26-year-old from New York whose parents brought her to the US from Mexico before she was a year old, was in physics class at Bronx Community College when Sessions made the announcement.

“I honestly I can’t even process it right now. I’m still trying to get myself together,” Marin said. “I just hope that they do change their mind and they realise what they’re doing is wrong.”

Carla Chavarria, 24, is a Phoenix entrepreneur who owns a digital marketing firm and a fitness apparel line. She came to the US from Mexico when she was seven.

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Her permit expires in November, and she is waiting for her renewal to be processed. She is set to close on the purchase of a home later this month.

“It’s hard being a business owner as it is, especially with being young and being a woman and someone who’s an immigrant. It’s already hard as it is. Now having DACA being taken away,” she said. “I’m sort of like in limbo right now.”