Dozens rally in Honolulu to support immigrant ‘dreamers’ as federal protections end

Dozens gathered in front of the Prince Kuhio Federal Building Tuesday evening to rally against President Donald Trump’s plan to phase out a program offering protections to young illegal immigrants.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program currently protects about 800,000 so-called “dreamers” from deportation — including roughly 600 here in Hawaii.

Some of the changes announced by the White House Tuesday were:

  • Initial requests for Employment Authorization Documents under DACA properly filed and accepted through Sept. 5 will be processed. Additional DACA initial applications filed after Sept. 5 will not be accepted.
  • Renewal applications for DACA Employment Authorization Documents properly filed and accepted by Oct. 5 for people whose current Employment Authorization Documents expire between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018, will be processed. Any such requests filed after Oct. 5 will not be accepted.
  • Currently approved applications for advance parole for DACA recipients will generally be honored, but new applications will not be approved.

The White House says immigration policy should come from Capitol Hill. A statement argued the following points:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security explaining that DACA was not statutorily authorized and was therefore an unconstitutional exercise of discretion by the executive branch. …

“The DACA program was never intended to be permanent—even President Obama admitted it was a temporary, extraordinary measure. And President Obama repeatedly recognized that such unilateral actions were in excess of the Executive’s appropriate role. …

“DACA made it impossible for President Trump to pursue the reforms needed to restore fairness to our immigration system and protect American workers.”

Trump said he’d give Congress six months to come up with an alternative before ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program completely.

“I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly, and I can tell you, speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right,” Trump said.

Some members of Congress have said they want to make the protections that DACA provided permanent, but it will need bipartisan support to happen.

“It’s frustrating and grinds against everything we believe as Americans right,” said Sherry Campagna, state chair for Women’s March Hawaii. “Many of us here in Hawaii, our families arrived with that very same dream and that’s why this fight is so personal, so visceral for us.”

The following statements were issued by Hawaii’s Congressional delegation following Trump’s announcement:

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono:

“After months of empty rhetoric to the contrary, the President took the cruel and unnecessary step to eliminate DACA – exposing more than 800,000 young people to deportation. They are not criminals. They are inspiring young people aptly called DREAMers because of their dream of making a better life for themselves in the only country they know.

“Ending DACA is the latest step this President has taken to attack minority communities and stoke the fear and divisiveness that served as pillars of his campaign and inform his presidency.

“DACA is clearly constitutional. But by rescinding the program, the President puts the onus on Congress to act. Congress must take appropriate action to provide permanent legal status to DREAMers.

“I want to be clear: I reject any effort to hold these young people hostage for an unnecessary waste of money like Donald Trump’s wall.

“I will continue to stand with these inspiring young people and groups all across the country to fight this latest cruel and totally unjustifiable action by the President.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz:

“This is one of the most inhumane things this administration could do. It doesn’t matter where you stand on immigration. We should all be able to agree that people who came here as children, who have grown up as American as anyone else’s kids, should not be stripped away from the communities they’re a part of to go back to a country they don’t remember.

“People trusted the government when they chose to register as Dreamers. And now, this administration has betrayed their trust and will ruin their lives.”

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa:

“President Trump’s heartless and unnecessary decision to end the DACA program, while giving Congress an opportunity to act, belies the history behind DACA. Speaker Ryan can express sympathy for “those who have done nothing wrong,” but the reality is Speaker Ryan and 197 other House Republicans voted against the 2010 DREAM Act.

“If House Republicans want to solve this injustice, they should bring the DREAM Act to the House floor immediately and end the uncertainty caused by President Trump’s ill-advised DACA decision.

“DREAMers are young men and women with real lives, jobs, businesses, families and hopes for their future. Many DREAMers have spent more time in the United States than in their home countries. For President Trump to threaten to turn these DREAMers out is unconscionable, but par for the course for a President who has done more to divide this country than unite it.

“I stand with DREAMers and encourage my Republican colleagues to bring the DREAM Act to the floor now.”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

“President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is wrong. It will break up families and punish young people who were brought to this country as minors through no choice or fault of their own. These are people who have grown up in the United States, and who know no other country to be their home. DACA transformed the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of young people, in Hawaii and across the country. Because of DACA they’ve been able to go to college, find a job, support their family, serve their country, and live free from the constant fear of deportation.

“In my home state of Hawaii, DACA has allowed more than 600 young people to remain legally in our country and contribute to our economy and society, including a member of my staff who came to the United States as a minor from Zimbabwe. Last week on Maui, I had the opportunity to hear from some of Hawaii’s DREAMers and hear their heart-wrenching stories about living in fear and in the shadows until DACA was put into effect. They cried as they shared their stories of the opportunity and freedom they have experienced because of DACA, and the fear of uncertainty in what lies ahead with the prospects of being forced to leave the only home they’ve ever known. Congress must act now to enact a permanent solution for these DREAMers and pass the bipartisan DREAM Act now.”

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