Teresa Garcia said her family left their home in Mexico over a decade ago so her children could have a safer life in the United States.
“In fact I was able to abandon everything in my country to bring my children here and give them a better future,” she said.
But now the program that shelters two of her children from deportation to Mexico — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — is set for shutdown by President Donald Trump.
“I will do more,” Garcia said before hundreds of people who gathered Tuesday at Seattle’s El Centro de la Raza to protest the decision. “I will defend DACA. I will be next to them and next to every single DACA, every single student, who deserves better education, more opportunities. Because what we brought to this country is talent. We brought our children.”
The Obama-era DACA program established by executive action in 2012 frees enrollees from the worry of deportation and gives them permits for work. About 800,000 people are enrolled throughout the nation, including 20,000 in Washington state. The program has enabled many to pursue higher education and get jobs.
“They are the ones who want to make America great,” said Garcia, a parent leader with immigrant rights group OneAmerica. “This is the real way to make America great.”
Garcia joined about a dozen other speakers at El Centro, including Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who called the Trump administration’s move illegal, and vowed to go court to preserve DACA.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, gives temporary protection from deportation to eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Approved applicants also receive a work permit that can be renewed every two years.
The announcement that the program would end in six months was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday morning. In his announcement, he called Obama’s executive action an “overreach.” But The Hill reported that those whose enrollments would expire in six months would be allowed to submit applications for a two-year renewal by Oct. 5, which could mean people could still remain under the DACA program through 2020.
Sessions said it was now up to Congress to change the immigration law. The president followed up with a similar message on Twitter.
Several Seattle organizations offered statements — and some assistance — in support of DACA recipients n the hours after the announcement:
- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city would spend $150,000 on programs to help DACA recipients address legal questions and to file for renewal.
- The Northwest Immigrant Right’s Project issued an advisory for current recipients.
- Microsoft president Brad Smith told NPR the company would provide legal assistance to employees who are DACA recipients, saying the government “will have to go through us to get that person.”
Speakers at the Tuesday afternoon rally also encouraged people to report immigration raids through a hotline at 1-844-724-3737, and to enroll in a text messaging system by texting JOIN to 253-201-2833.
Paul Quinonez, who is part of the Washington Dream Coalition, said as a DACA recipient, he was able to graduate with a double major in Political Science and Economics from Gonzaga University and get a job in the Washington State Legislature.
“Thanks to the organizers who forced President Obama to issue DACA, I have been able to live with some sense of normality over the last five years,” he said.
He said DACA recipients contribute to the state and the nation’s economy.
“But it’s also true that neither myself nor the 800,000 DACA recipients throughout the country should have to constantly justify their existence in this nation and the contributions we have made to it. Our humanity should be recognized and be defended by our allies,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to prove ourselves every single day and rise to a ridiculous standard of what America expects its immigrants to be like.”
Quinonez continued: “The coward in the White House didn’t even have the courage to face us and instead left Jeff Sessions to do his dirty work.”
— Seattle Globalist (@SeaGlobalist) September 5, 2017