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Trump administration announces repeal of DACA program

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 9/15/2017, 6 a.m.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant youth across the U.S. are slated to begin to lose their legal presence status, ...
Members of Cambridge Area Strong Together protested the DACA repeal and distributed information at an event in Central Square last week. Banner Photo

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant youth across the U.S. will begin to lose their legal presence status, under a Trump administration policy change. On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced gradual repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

The Obama-era DACA policy provided temporary legal protection from deportation as well as a means to work and study for residents who were brought into the U.S. as children, as long as they met certain criteria. A DACA permit shielded an eligible young person from deportation for two years, with possibilities for renewal. It did not provide a specific path to legal permanent residency, but did grant DACA recipients time to remain in the country, during which they might pursue such status.

As of Sept. 5, the Trump administration stopped accepting new applications for DACA permits, and unless legislative protections are put in place, legal status granted by DACA will be phased out, starting in March 2018. Young people whose permits expire by March 5, 2018 may apply for renewal as long as they do so by Oct. 5, 2017. Once the phase-out process begins, all current recipients, known as “Dreamers”, stand to lose their protections by March 2020.

A number of media polls indicate strong public support for the program, a sentiment that was on display as Sessions’ announcement sparked protests across the country, including several in the Greater Boston area, with further demonstrations planned.

Jocelyn Antonio was one of several who joined a Cambridge Area Stronger Together (CAST) information distribution event, held in Central Square last Thursday.

“I’m the daughter of [Mexican] immigrants who was fortunate enough to be born here, and I know what opportunities that affords you,” Antonio said, holding a sign protesting the repeal.

Not all Antonio’s friends are so lucky — those who are Dreamers “will lose opportunities for reasons that are essentially racist,” she said, noting that most Dreamers are Latinos.

David Miranda, also present at the CAST rally, said that he believes Trump is motivated by a desire to dismantle Obama’s work.

“[Obama] put this country back on its feet,” Miranda said. “Trump wants to destroy everything that he worked for.”

Nationally, more than 800,000 immigrants are expected to be at risk of deportation under this wind-down— including about 7,900 Massachusetts residents. Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, stated that the loss of these youth, often called Dreamers, may cost the state economy about $606 million.

DACA

Obama established DACA through executive order in 2012, after an attempt to secure Congressional authorization was narrowly defeated in 2010. Sessions is among those who have asserted that Obama overreached his authority in creating the program.

Efforts to create a federal policy protecting young immigrants from eviction from the country in which they were raised have been attempted periodically for more than a decade.

Local outcry

The day after Trump announced his plan, a group of 16 Democratic Attorney generals, including Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing the wind down of DACA. The attorney generals allege several claims, including that the loss of DACA recipients would damage states economically, was enacted improperly and is motivated by racism, given Trump’s history of anti-Mexican comments and the fact that the majority of DACA recipients are Mexican.

Locally, elected officials and civil rights lawyers decried the Trump administration’s move. Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin Walsh added their voices to the dissent, with Baker issuing a statement calling the phase-out “the wrong decision that could negatively impact our economy and many of the Commonwealth’s families.” During a press conference, Walsh said ending the program amounted to persecution.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice said the programs’ end threatens DACA recipients’ well-being.

“Deporting Dreamers would send them back to countries to which they have little or no connection and subject them in many cases to intense violence or poverty present in some of those countries,” Espinoza-Madrigal said in a statement.

New action?

Following Sessions’ announcement, Trump called upon Congress to create a new policy within six months, tweeting that if they failed to he would “revisit the issue.”