Four days after the Trump administration announced its decision on immigrants known as “Dreamers,” hundreds of people gathered outside the Idaho Capitol to protest the ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“A lot of my friends and family members are DACA recipients,” event organizer Estefania Mondragon said. “We just can’t stay quiet.”
Several speakers took the stage to share what DACA had done for them and fellow Dreamers – those who came to the United States illegally as young children with their parents. Rally-goers lined the streets holding signs of support while chants of “Si se puede” – Spanish for “Yes we can” – broke out. The rally was hosted by the Idaho Organizing Project’s DACA Committee and worked in collaboration with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime hard-liner on immigration, announced Tuesday that DACA would come to an end in six months and that it is up to Congress to come up with a replacement program.
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Sessions said DACA “was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.” Since that time, however, President Donald Trump has given mixed signals about DACA, saying that he’d revisit the program if Congress can’t legalize it.
The DACA program protected immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. as children, as long as they met certain age and educational criteria and had not committed any significant crimes.
The program began in 2012 and allowed the children of undocumented immigrants the ability to receive work permits and a Social Security number, both of which can aid in getting a driver’s license or applying to college. Nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants were DACA recipients, including at least 3,132 in Idaho.
[Read one Treasure Valley DACA recipient’s story]
Rixa Rivera-Sandoval, a Caldwell resident, is the daughter of undocumented immigrants. Her mother is from Guadalajara, Mexico, and her father, who was deported a few years ago, is from Honduras. Rivera-Sandoval graduated from Caldwell High with a 4.0 GPA and attended Boise State for a semester before costs became too high. She applied for DACA at age 15 and began working at 16.
Rivera-Sandoval said DACA gave her a chance to achieve her dreams, and that it is unjust to take away working privileges and to threaten deportation because of the actions of her parents. She said she remembers feeling fear growing up in Nevada, when her parents took her out of school for a week-and-a-half because immigration officials were in town.
“We didn’t have that choice. I did not make the choice at a year-and-a-half to come to the U.S. and commit a crime,” she said. “I didn’t even know that I had committed a crime until I was 7, 8 years old.”
Recipients typically renewed their DACA terms every two years. Applications are no longer being accepted by Homeland Security and renewals are available through Oct. 5 from current recipients whose benefits expire before March 5, 2018.
The uncertainty of not knowing whether or not she will be able to work in the U.S. legally in 2018 is already consuming Rivera-Sandoval, who still has two years left on her term.
“For me to be limited to two years in my career without assurance that I might be very far within my job (is scary),” Sandoval said. “For me to lose all that, to lose my 401(k), my benefits and all that stuff, all because of a label I did not choose, is unfair.
“It’s a constant fight every day.”
Saturday’s turnout provided Mondragon with optimism.
“This is a community coming through,” Mondragon said. “We want to show our Dreamers that we care about them.”