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Several San Diego Leaders Denounce Trump’s Decision To End DACA

Carlos Esteban, 31, of Woodbridge, Va., a nursing student and recipient of De...

Photo by Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

Above: Carlos Esteban, 31, of Woodbridge, Va., a nursing student and recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, rallies with others in support of DACA outside of the White House, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.

The Trump administration's announcement Tuesday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be phased out prompted opposition from immigrant advocates and politicians in San Diego.

"Young immigrants known as Dreamers represent the best of this country — they are innovators, educators, parents and children — and they belong in our community," said Andrea Guerrero, executive director of the nonprofit Alliance San Diego.

"The Trump administration's decision to end DACA is shameful and puts an estimated 40,000 Dreamers in San Diego at risk in a dangerous and irresponsible game of chicken with Congress," Guerrero said. "Now Congress must act to pass a clean bill that codifies the DACA program without eroding protections for other communities or undermining our civil liberties."

RELATED: Trump Rescinding DACA Program Protecting Young Immigrants

She said her organization will help Dreamers and other immigrants by offering free legal consultations with immigration attorneys.

DACA has been available to immigrants without criminal records who were brought to the country when they were younger than 16 years old. Work permits issued under DACA must be renewed every two years.

Attorney General Jeff Session said former President Barack Obama instituted DACA through an executive order despite lacking the statutory authority.

The administration's action gives Congress six months to come up with a solution for people illegally brought into the U.S. by their parents when they were children.

Rep Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said he was "eager to get to work on a permanent fix" and called on members of both political parties to put political posturing aside.

"When President Obama unilaterally created DACA, he unlawfully overstepped his executive authority and only put a temporary Band-Aid on a problem which prolonged uncertainty for many children brought here through no fault of their own," Issa said.

"The administration's decision today puts the onus on Congress to address this challenge in the right way — 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 for those who were brought here in their childhood years ago and wish to stay as productive members of our communities," he said.

About 800,000 undocumented immigrants are currently protected under the program, including more than 223,000 Californians. Around 38,000 San Diegans were eligible for the program.

The San Diego congressional delegation's three Democrats all blasted the decision.

RELATED: San Diego DACA Recipients, Supporters Brace For President’s Decision

Under the plan announced by Sessions at a Washington, D.C., news conference, the Department of Homeland Security will immediately stop processing any new applications for the program but continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires before March 5 of next year.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, called the DACA action "hateful," "vicious," "cruel" and "disgusting."

"My heart breaks for the hundreds of thousands of people who are now forced to cope with this living nightmare," said Gonzalez, whose district is heavily Hispanic. "I can only pray Congress musters some basic human decency and prevents this horrific policy from becoming reality."

Gonzalez's husband, Nathan Fletcher, a former assemblyman now running for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, tweeted a Facebook post from a Dreamer who worked as an intern in his wife's office.

"In 2012, the Obama administration kept my dreams alive. With the DACA program I was able to work and attend school at UCSD," Heidi Martinez wrote.

She said that three years later, she "graduated and was able to find an amazing job helping and raising awareness for deported veterans," calling those deportations "another injustice our government is a part of."

"Since January I have been living in fear," Martinez wrote. "In fear of a president who does not understand what immigrants offer to America ... He can build a wall, but our contributions to American society cannot be erased ... Trump can decide to end DACA and with it the dreams of thousands of hard- working immigrants. It will be Congress' time to stand up and fight. We must all keep persisting. I was not born in America, but I am as American as anybody. America is my home."

She ended her post with hashtags that have become an online rallying cry for "Dreamers" and their supporters: "I am heretostay; IstandwithDACA."

San Diego-area colleges and universities have been strong supporters of DACA — San Diego State University administrators addressed an open letter to Trump over the weekend urging him to reconsider his decision to end the program — and today was no different.

Constance Carroll, the chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, called it a sad day, especially since DACA provided youth with educational opportunities. She said Dreamers were among the "best and highest achieving students" at City, Mesa and Miramar colleges, and the Continuing Education campus.

"Nationally, many are earning graduate degrees and are already giving back to their communities through services, expertise and taxes," Carroll said. "This country is the only country they know and deporting them would be a horrible injustice."

The San Diego Immigrants Rights Consortium, Alliance San Diego and Ready Now San Diego planned to hold a rally in support of DACA at 6 p.m. at the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway.

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