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DACA supporters protest in Tucson following Trump's move to end program

Following news that the Trump administration rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that shielded about 788,000 people from deportation, around 150 people demonstrated their frustration at Tucson City Hall on Tuesday afternoon and rallied for lawmakers to seek new protections for Dreamers.

Backed by dozens of hand-lettered signs in neon green, Jessica Rodriguez, a DACA recipient with Living United for Change in Arizona, denounced the Trump administration's rescission of the work-permit program for young people.

"It's a very difficult time," said Rodriguez. "It's difficult to be here in front of you here to say, I have DACA and they're going to take that away from me."

"DACA allowed me to work, to buy a car, to drive without fear of being stopped by a cop—with the fear of deportation—to continue with my educational goals, with my professional goals," said Rodriguez. "There was a decision made today to take that away."

The federal government will no longer accept new applications, said Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a press conference on Tuesday, and DACA recipients will not be immediately affected. Instead, the acting head of Homeland Security Elaine Duke has chosen to "orderly wind down" the program.

As part of the plan outlined by Sessions, DACA permits that expire between now and March 5, 2018, can be renewed for a two years before October 5.

Edward Cott, an organizer with the group Lucha Unida de Padres y Estudiantes, or United Struggle of Parents and Students, said in Tucson that DACA's end was not a surprise.

"They laid this out in the first 100 days, did they not?" Cott asked.

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While saying that the Trump administration was "chauvinistic" and "racist," Cott argued that the crackdown against immigrants did not start with Trump, but instead reached back to the Clinton administration, and continued through the Obama years when millions of people were deported.

"But, in Tucson, we're not going to allow this. We have a history of resistance in this country," Cott said.

"We've been resisting in the city, and we're going to continue fighting back, organizing, protecting our community and protecting our families. And, making sure that they know that we're not going to stand for it," he said.

Cott also called on local officials to stand up and protect the rights of DACA recipients.

"We’ve got to demand they take concrete steps to defend vulnerable communities that are being criminalized, persecuted, continue to be attacked by the federal government," Cott said.

Josue Saldivar, a DACA recipient, and member of Mariposas Sin Fronteras, or Butterflies without Borders, said politicians have failed the immigrant community for last 15 years by failing to pass legislation to permanently protect immigrants.

"Our humanity has been generalized. It has become a buzzword and we have become political pawns," Saldivar said. "But we each of us have our own humanity and that should be respected."

Erendida Robles, 19, a sophomore at Pima Community College studying youth services, said she had been preparing for this moment.

"I want to go to school as long as I can, but I'm ready," she said. "I knew this was going to happen, so I'm preparing for what comes next. It's time for me to fight—I'm going to keep fighting to go to school."

She said that last week she paid an extra $45 to ensure that papers to ensure that papers to renew her DACA permit would be received by federal officials on Tuesday.

While she hoped for the best, Robles said she had little faith that lawmakers would find a legal way to protect her. "The government and their system has always let me down," she said. "It's easy to say something, but its different to really act on it."

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally joined nine other lawmakers to argue for a legislative solution to the problem.

In a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, McSally and others wrote that they were "willing and ready to find a solution no matter what action is taken by President Trump in the coming days and encourage you to work with us as soon as possible to do so."

Following Tuesday's announcement, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva called the rescission of DACA "heartless" and said that he, along with 116 members of the Democratic caucus had signed on to the American Hope Act, which grants conditional permanent residency to DACA recipients. A similar bill was issued in the Senate in July.

Jesus Lucero, 19, said that he tried to file for DACA but didn't have the necessary paperwork to apply, but he supported the program that helped his friend.

"DACA gave one million people to have the opportunity to have a valid life, and now with it being taken away, not even they have it. Ten million people were never included in that, they never had the opportunity to go to school, they never had the opportunity to work or do anything, which is so messed up," he said.

"We all need to work together to push for all 11 million of us to have a valid life," Lucero said.

In a memo of talking points released internally to DHS, the agency said that the six month gap was a "limited window" and that DACA recipients should be urged to "use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure to the United States."

Around 197,000 DACA recipients should be able to renew their permits before March 5, however, another 592,000 people will see their permits expire before the deadline, according to an analysis by the Cato Institute, using data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Later, Rodriguez blasted the administration of the University of Arizona, and city officials.

"Let's not forget our elected officials who are in this building on Tuesdays," she said, gesturing to the City Hall tower behind her. "Where are they?" asked someone in the crowd.

"We were here a week ago, defending DACA—a week later, they haven't said anything," Rodriguez said. "We are going to take the streets. We're going to make it loud and clear and send a message: no racism will be allowed in this town."

Wednesday, activists are planning to hold a march with "thousands of people," Rodriguez said. The march, hosted by LUPE, LUCHA , Scholarships AZ, and Mariposa Sin Fronteras will begin at 4 p.m. at DeAnza Park, at 1000 N. Stone Avenue and will head City Hall.

"We know that nobody in Congress is going to do something for us, we know that the White House is not going to do anything for us, but we can bring accountability to our own town," she said. "We have to protect each other."

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Melissa Garcia, 27, holds a sign reading 'We are here, and we will not go' during a demonstration in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that was rescinded Tuesday by the Trump administration.