On September 5, the Trump administration announced that it was ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, over the next six months. The president assigned Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make the announcement, apparently trying to separate himself from the move.
DACA, which was enacted through Executive Order by then-President Obama in 2012, places a stay on the deportation of 800,000 immigrant youth who were brought to the United States when they were small children. DACA did not legalize the status of these immigrant youth; it merely gave them temporary (two-year) stays on deportation, renewable at the discretion of the president, along with temporary work permits. The recipients were called “Dreamers” — named after the DREAM Act.
Demonstrations erupted across the country — from Washington, D.C., to both coasts, and in the heartland. Opposition was powerful and swift.
Almost immediately, the AFL-CIO national leadership and many of its statewide and citywide affiliates issued statements denouncing the Trump administration’s decision. In a number of states, the unions went a step further, urging labor activists to take to the streets in protest. One such statement by the San Francisco Labor Council reads, in part:
“The San Francisco Labor Council and all of our friends, families and allies who make up the majority of those in America, stand in firm opposition to this latest demonstration of calculated cruelty at the expense of our immigrant brothers and sisters. We call for: A Moratorium on Deportations! Full protection for All DACA Recipients! An End to the Scapegoating of Immigrant Communities!”
Opposition to ending DACA began to mount before the official announcement from some unlikely voices. Dissension from Trump’s own party came from 18 Republicans, three U.S. senators, and 15 U.S. representatives, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said, “I actually don’t think we should do that. This is something that Congress has to fix.”
Top administrators in 100 higher-education institutions in 25 states and the District of Columbia expressed support for passage of the DREAM Act, many with signed letters to federal legislators opposing the president’s move to rescind DACA and urging support for the DREAM Act.
Big business CEOs from over 400 companies signed a letter to the president and Congress to save DACA. Thousands of faith and advocacy group leaders, and all levels of elected government officials, signed DACA support letters. Ending DACA could cost our country $433.4 billion in GDP loss, according to Crains New York Business Journal.
Faith organizations, especially those based in immigrant and people of color communities are speaking out for DACA, including evangelical Christian groups who may take conservative positions on some other social questions, Most vocal are the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention; and World Relief, “the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals” for its work with refugees and immigrants.
For their part, the immigrant rights activist organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and other cities across the country are calling to defend DACA, while also demanding an end to all deportations and the legalization of all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Signs demanding “Not One More Deportation!” were visible everywhere at the spontaneous demonstrations that were held the evening of September 5 in cities and college campuses across the Bay Area and beyond.
A number of immigrant rights organizers explained in speeches and radio interviews that DACA was a concession made by Obama to appease the massive immigrant rights movement and to woo the Latino and youth vote in the 2012 presidential election. “While we defend DACA,” stated Quitzia, a leader of Causa Justa, on KPFA (Berkeley) Radio, “we will not forget that Obama was the ‘Deporter-in-Chief,’ as more than 3 million people were deported under his watch.”
A statement by the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) summed up the stance of the militant wing of the immigrant rights movement:
“Trump’s decision to rescind DACA is a desperate political stunt to please his white supremacist base.…However, immigrant communities have survived countless attacks through each presidential administration that has continuously scapegoated our people to advance their political agendas.…
“Let us all be reminded that DACA was victoriously achieved through community organizing and base building. We have the power to organize and fight back, not just for the 800,000 DACA beneficiaries, but for all the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.”
Labor and community united in mass actions in the streets can make a huge difference over the next six months not only to preserve DACA but to advance the nationwide fight to end all deportations.