San Diego DACA Recipients, Supporters Brace For President's Decision
UPDATE: 7:30 a.m., Sept. 4, 2017
President Donald Trump is expected to announce that he will end protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, but with a six-month delay, people familiar with the plans said.
The delay in the formal dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, would be intended to give Congress time to decide whether it wants to address the status of the so-called Dreamers legislation, according to two people familiar with the president's thinking. But it was not immediately clear how the six-month delay would work in practice and what would happen to people who currently have work permits under the program, or whose permits expire during the six-month stretch.
It also was unclear exactly what would happen if Congress failed to pass a measure by the considered deadline, they said. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of a planned Tuesday announcement.
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President Donald Trump is expected to decide Tuesday whether to continue DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program granted deportation relief to some 800,000 people who were brought to the country illegally as children. In San Diego, they and their supporters are bracing for the decision.
DACA recipients have been on edge for more than a week as rumors swirled about when the president will announce his decision. Jesus Mendez is one of them. He was approved for DACA and received a work permit in May 2013. He said he has been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions.
“In the last 20 minutes I’ve been feeling a little anxious. And then, you know, I try to calm myself down, do what works for me, trying to take care of myself so I’m able to be here, to be in the moment, to be present,” he said Thursday.
Mendez works for the social justice nonprofit Alliance San Diego. He has been trying to focus on helping the group answer a barrage of calls from concerned individuals and plan a rally for the day of the decision. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. at Waterfront Park. Another rally is planned for the same time at the Westfield mall in Escondido.
Ten state attorneys general are urging Trump to end DACA Tuesday or face a legal challenge in court.
Trump told supporters, many who believe the Obama executive order was overreaching and unconstitutional, he would quickly dismantle the program. But much of Trump’s agenda has been delayed, and the president himself has twice offered vague comments that seem to favor the program. He told reporters Friday, “We love Dreamers,” and said in May they should rest easy.
Rallies outside the White House and a social media campaign have touted the economic benefits of DACA.
UC San Diego researcher Tom Wong, whose parents brought him to the United States illegally at age two, found in a survey of more than 3,000 DACA recipients that the tax base and U.S. spending have grown because of the program. Immigrants who received work permits through DACA were more likely to be employed and earned more.
Wong, who gained legal status when he married his wife, also found 72 percent of DACA recipients in school were pursuing bachelor’s or advanced degrees — many in the sciences and teaching.
“This program works. It has to remain in place, because at the end of the day, the young men and women who are paying taxes, creating jobs and are contributing tremendously to the economy of our country, this is home. They’re not going anywhere,” said Christian Ramirez, human rights director for Alliance San Diego. “It will be a shameful day in our country if we decide to rip a teacher out of her classroom and deport her.”
Ramirez’s colleague Mendez has earned a bachelor’s degree since being approved for DACA and is considering enrolling in a graduate program focused on immigrant mental health.
Ramirez said he is right to keep planning for his future and urged other DACA recipients to renew their status if eligible. Trump’s decision likely will not be the last word.
“Certainly, President Trump has the authority to rescind the order. However, in our country there’s still due process,” he said. “The government can’t give someone a benefit and then take it away without due process.”
If Trump rescinds DACA, many in the legal community stand at the ready to challenge him. If he does not, the states against DACA say they will go to court to question the program’s constitutionality.
A third outcome is a legislative fix to the program — something favored by moderate lawmakers and, as of Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Ramirez said there are at least 40,000 people eligible for DACA or who have received DACA status in San Diego County.