***Additional reporting by Savannah Assi and Gabriela Cazares-Lopez***
The Trump Administration announced yesterday morning that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted recipients protection from deportation and gave work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors.
The decision prompted protesters to fill San Francisco’s streets, with rallies held in front of City Hall and the federal building. The city was forced to shut down a portion of Mission Street to accommodate the crowd.
SF State student Sarah Dexheimer attended the rally. “I’m out here today because I’m worried about sanctuary cities not being a thing anymore under this administration,” Dexheimer said. “How can it be the American dream without immigrants?”
President Leslie E. Wong sent an email in response to the decision, reaffirming the university’s commitment to support its students.
“Like many of you, I am outraged by the decision today by the Trump administration to rescind the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” Wong said via email. “We are a community that puts our passion into action, and this issue is no different. I invite you to join me in raising your voice in support of this vulnerable but resilient community of students.”
SF State hosted a closed forum for Dreamers to be in a safe space hours after Trump made the decision. Xpress attempted to attend the meeting, but due to the sensitive nature of DACA student identities, they were not permitted access.
According to Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), SF State will not release students’ private information unless legally required to do so, and offers assistance from the University Police Department should any member of the SF State community be confronted by an immigration agent.
“Our counseling services and other support functions, such as our Dream Resource Center and Undocu-Allies, remain available to respond to the growing sense of anger and fear many are experiencing,” Wong wrote in a school-wide email.
The decision to end DACA came after President Trump deliberated for months on whether to gut the program. Trump gave congress a six-month window to act on the decision, ultimately putting Dreamers’ fate in the hands of congress, according to Politico.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference that the Obama-era policy was implemented unilaterally after congress rejected similar legislation to extend similar benefits to undocumented immigrants.
“The executive branch through DACA deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch,” Sessions said at the press conference.
Dream SF Fellow and SF State student Gerardo Gomez is one of many directly impacted by Trump’s decision.
“My work permit expires on November of 2018, after which I will not be able to re-apply for a new permit. For me that will mean that I will be unable to stay in San Francisco,” Gomez said via email. “I still plan on graduating with my Bachelors degree in political Science this fall semester. I had planned to apply to jobs in my field after graduating and looking into perspective law schools in a year or two. Now, with my ability to legally work and stay in the country in doubt, I don’t know how practical and realistic these goals are anymore.”
Gomez, who is placed at a defensive immigration law firm called Pangea Legal Services, is grateful to live in San Francisco. “It’s important to remember today’s decision does not change San Francisco’s sanctuary city status. The city does not, and will not, help in deportation proceedings and has a vast rapid response network where people can call when then they see ICE raids in our community.”
Nearly 790,000 immigrants are currently benefiting from the DACA program, according to Pew Research Center. In order to qualify and apply for the program, immigrants must have, among other requirements, entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Once a recipient of DACA, immigrants are shielded from deportation and granted a work permit for two years which is subject to renewal.
The announcement took Twitter by storm, with politicians like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, condemning Trump’s decision and standing in solidarity with Dreamers.
“Trump’s cowardice is on full display today. His cruelty must not stand! #ProtectDREAMers,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter.
“To #DACA youth across the country, I say this is not over. I stand with you and your families. You are valued,” Feinstein wrote on Twitter. “Congressional action is now the only way to protect DACA recipients. The #DreamAct deserves a vote as soon as possible. #DefendDACA.”
According to the Pew Research Center, California accounts for over 29 percent of Dreamers in the nation with 223,000 DACA recipients.
In the statement, Trump said that no new applications for work permits will be accepted and that the Department of Homeland Security will “begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, with minimum disruption.”
Existing work permits will remain valid and applications in the pipeline will continue to be processed.
“For me staying in this country and finishing school means fulfilling all the promises I made to myself and to my family. That the struggles and sacrifices my parent made to bring me here weren’t for nothing,” Gomez said.