SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - By Bay City News Service
Undocumented young people who were previously protected from deportation joined Bay Area elected leaders today in deploring President Donald Trump's decision to end the deferral program.
"I was very disappointed with the news we heard today. It's devastating," said a San Francisco State University student identified only by her first name, Alicia.
"I have come to realize San Francisco is my home. I'm not ready to give up. I'm here to fight," she said.
Alicia, originally from Mexico, tutors bilingual students and works at Mujeres Unidas y Activas, a group that helps Latina immigrant women, while earning her college degree in health education at San Francisco State.
She spoke at a "Stand with DACA Students!" news conference presided over by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at City Hall following the Trump administration's announcement it is canceling the Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
About 800,000 people who arrived in the United States as children, including 223,000 in California, were in the program, which allowed them to stay in the United States for renewable two-year terms.
The program was established through an executive order in 2012 by President Barack Obama. Those covered are sometimes called Dreamers.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today that Trump is canceling Obama's order. Sessions said he believed Obama's order was "an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch."
Sessions and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke noted that Congress could enact a program through legislation if it wishes to do so.
Duke announced a phased winding-down of DACA in which deportations of current Dreamers could begin within six months.
No new applications for the program will be allowed after today.
Current recipients can retain their deferred action period and work authorization documents until they reach their two-year expiration date. Those whose documents expire within the next six months can apply for
renewals, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis, Duke said. Thus, deportations could begin as early as March 6.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said at the City Hall event, "Five years ago we made a promise to a generation of young people. We asked them to step out of the shadows and enter our country.
"They are hard-working individuals and diligent students. Today, the administration has broken the promise and turned its back on them," the mayor said.
Hong Mei, a Singapore-born undocumented immigrant, said, "Immigrants are a vital and indispensable part of our community.
"San Francisco will remain a beacon," she said. She currently works as immigration program manager for Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco.
California's two Democratic U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and several Bay Area members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, urged Congress to revive the program.
"Congressional action is now the only way to guarantee that DACA recipients are shielded from deportation, and it must be our top priority," Feinstein said.
Pelosi said, "President Trump's decision to end DACA is a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America.
"Deporting Dreamers means destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of patriotic young people, costing the economy billions and betraying the fundamental values of the American dream," Pelosi said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said they are considering lawsuits to challenge Trump's move, but spokespersons for the two officials said no details are available on when and on what grounds the lawsuits might be filed.
Liccardo said the Trump administration's action in "punting the issue to Congress, without any affirmative leadership to enact a legislative solution, amounts to a cowardly cop-out."
"To San Jose's tens of thousands of Dreamers, we reiterate: "We've got your back," Liccardo said.