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Trump will revoke DACA in 6 months, punts to Congress for fix

The Trump administration is expected to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in six months, passing the issue to Congress for a fix while fulfilling a long-term promise made to hardline supporters of the Republican president.

Ending the program without a replacement would place nearly a million people across the country — about 30,000 in Arizona — at risk of being rapidly deported.

After more than a week of reports that President Donald Trump would cancel DACA, the White House said that a decision would come on Tuesday, and on Sunday, Politico's Eliana Johnson reported that the administration plans to end the program despite "strong warnings from members of his own party."

Johnson wrote that Trump has "wrestled for months" with the decision, but has ultimately decided to agree with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that the president should terminate the program and "kick the issue to Congress."

DACA, an Obama-era program created by executive action in 2012 protects immigrants and offers work permits to those without legal status who were brought to the United States as children.

Over the last five years, nearly 788,000 people have successfully applied for DACA, including nearly 36,000 people in 2017, according to statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Of those, around 211,000 renewed their application this year, according to statistics from USCIS.

In Arizona, nearly 31,000 people have applied and had their applications accepted, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

MPI estimates that around 1.9 million people are eligible for DACA in the United States.

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On news that the White House was cancelling DACA, Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in an email that "We must not deport the American promise these young immigrants and their families represent. That's not who we are."

"My heart breaks for the young immigrants for whom fear and anguish will replace the promise they both saw and brought to America. They are our colleagues, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow church-goers. They are American in every way but paperwork," he wrote.

"We have a solution before our eyes. Leaders in Congress from both parties must act immediately to pass a solution such as the DREAM Act that preserves Dreamers' economic contributions and benefits American workers," Noorani said.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly attacked the DACA program, but once in office, his public statements softened even as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents went after several people with DACA, sometimes known as "Dreamers."

On Friday, Trump told reporters at the White House that a decision was coming. "Sometime today, or over the weekend, we'll have a decision," he said.

A reporter asked, "Should Dreamers be worried?"

"We love the Dreamers. We love everybody," Trump replied.

While Trump said in February that administration officials would "show great heart," when it came to DACA, the White House has been under growing pressure to rescind the program from Republican hard-liners, including nearly a dozen attorney's general from Republican-led states.

On June 29, Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, and 10 other state officials, submitted a letter to the Trump administration demanding that the federal government rescind DACA and halt the renewal or issue of new DACA permits in the future.

Sent to AG Sessions, the letter gave the Trump administration until Sept. 5 to end the program, or the face the expansion of the legal challenge that blocked the Obama administration from expanding DACA and offering deferred action to parents in 2015.

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Following the publication of the letter, attorneys general from 20 other states, including California, New Mexico, and New York, urged the administration to maintain DACA, arguing that the program "represents a success story" for those who applied, and is "a boon to the communities, universities, and employers with which these Dreamers are connected, and for the American economy as a whole."

While the White House has accepted the deadline, Marshall Fitz, managing director of immigration with the Emerson Collective — a progressive organization funded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs — said the Sept. 5 date was "an artificially made, politically imposed deadline. There's nothing currently requiring the administration to engage in a decision over DACA."

"The reality is, DACA is not before any court." Instead, an attempt by the Obama administration to expand DACA to include more children as well as their parents, also known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was rendered moot after the federal government rescinded its lawsuit following Trump's election.

"Paxton is trying to take advantage to aggressively terminate the DACA program," Fitz said.

If the deadline passed, Paxton promised to put Trump in the unenviable position of having to defend the Obama-era DACA program, one that he promised to end during his immigration speech in Phoenix last year.

"We will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately five million illegal immigrants, five million," Trump said.

"In a Trump administration all immigration laws will be enforced, will be enforced," he said. "Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don't have a country."

In his recent speech in Phoenix, Trump did not mention the executive actions, but used immigration as a jumping off point to talk about pardoning the former sheriff of Maricopa County Joe Arpaio, following his conviction for criminal contempt.

"The most sacred duty of government is to protect the lives of its citizens, and that includes securing our borders, and enforcing our immigration laws," Trump said.

However, earlier in the year, during a news conference in February, Trump appeared more conflicted about the fate of the Dreamers, once calling them "incredible kids."

And, in April, he told the Associated Press that DACA recipients should "rest easy" because the administration was "not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals."

Support for DACA

Last Tuesday, nearly three dozen people gathered in front of Tucson's City Hall to show their support for DACA.

Holding a banner that read "here to stay," DACA recipients and supporters vowed to push back against the end of the program.

"We continue to hear these threats against DACA," said Jessica Rodriguez, an organizer with Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA. "This is not going to stop. We're going to continue to take the streets. We're going to continue to call on our officials. We are not going to stop."

Advocates vowed to fight for the program politically, including pushing members of Congress like U.S. Rep. Martha McSally.

"Call out representatives like Rep. McSally, who has said that she supports the DACA-mented community and the Dreamers," said Mo Goldman, an immigration attorney in Tucson. "She said it, and she needs to be held accountable. She needs to be on the phone talking to the White House."

"This administrations is just hanging this threat over our heads, because they know that it does affect us," said Fernando Najera, 20. "The morale of our community is a little low right now."

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Najera said that he felt personally targeted by the possible end of DACA, but added that since he spends most of his time on the University of Arizona campus, double-majoring in political science and law, he feels supported by his colleagues and the student union. "I'm empowered, but we've got to know that we're being targeted."

"We bracing for the fight that's ahead," said Najera. "If DACA goes away, that takes everything away and I'll work hard, I'll fight, to get back any protection that I have."

"The fact that we have a president, who doesn't see humanity in people, who encourages people to attack those who do not agree with him, it's clearly a message he's sending out to the people and throughout the country," said Rodriguez.

"DACA is not a perfect program because it does not include all us of all and all our families, but it was a victory," she said. "It took real power from the people to get DACA and we're not going to let it be taken away. It was long overdue, and we're are going to do whatever it takes to protect it," she said.

DACA was created in 2012 by Obama just two years after a Republican-led filibuster stymied the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors act in 2010, known as the DREAM Act.

After sidestepping Congress once to create DACA, Obama tried to expand the program in November 2014 by including more young immigrants in the deferred action program, as well as their parents.

However, that program ground to a halt in Feb. 2015 after U.S District Judge Andrew S. Hanen granted an injunction as part of a lawsuit filed by Texas, and joined by Arizona and 25 other states. The Obama administration appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court agreed with Hanen and let the injunction stand.

The court's decision kept nearly 39,000 people from filing for deferred action for childhood arrivals, and another 97,000 from filing as parents, according to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

Overall, about 3.9 million people would have been covered by the expanded program, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Obama administration attempted to unlock the program by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but in June 2016, the justices announced that they were deadlocked, 4-4, effectively leaving the lower court's injunction in place.

Even before the Trump administration announced the end of DACA, dozens of groups offered support for the deferred action program.

Lea Márquez Peterson, the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter supporting DACA, writing that the U.S. economy could lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in contributions to Social Security and Medicare.

"Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy," she wrote. "With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage."

"There is no good moral, legal, or political reason to get rid of this wildly successful program," wrote Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "More than 100 legal scholars, countless faith leaders and economists, along with business and education leaders, have spoken in defense of the program. In addition, polls show that 7 out of 8 voters support this program. DACA is one of those rare instances where doing the right thing is also the politically popular thing."

"It is time for all people to organize with fierce and unapologetic determination to counter the vicious hate being pushed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and white supremacists in the White House," said Greisa Martinez Rosas, policy and advocacy director with United We Dream. "Every Republican elected and administration official who has tried to have it both ways is now on notice. You either oppose the drive to kill DACA or you are complicit in our suffering."

In an email, United We Dream promised to "fight like hell for DACA."

On Thursday, more than 300 business leaders, including the chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google urgedTrump to preserve DACA in an open letter. Organized by FWD.us, a political action group, the letter said in part that DACA recipient are "are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage."

As it became clear that DACA might be eliminated, McSally and 9 other Congress members sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, asking him to press for a legislative fix.

Ryan seemed to agree, saying during a radio interview that he didn't think Trump should terminate the program. "I actually don't think he should do that. I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix."

Bill's long history, and a return

Originally introduced as a bipartisan piece of legislation in 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, the DREAM Act could not get enough votes in the Senate. In 2009, 39 senators and 128 representatives signed on as cosponsors, but again, the bill could not pass, even when a 2010 version was incorporated in a defense authorization act.

Among the 40 senators who voted against the bill in 2010 was U.S. Sens. John McCain and John Kyl.

In response, Obama announced DACA, an executive action that provided administrative relief from deportation for two years for eligible immigrants who came to the United States before June 15, 2012.

"This is not amnesty," said Obama during a press conference announcing the program. "This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," he said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure."

Even as rumors swirled that the Trump administration was about to overrule DACA, Republican Congressman Mike Coffman announced that he would file a petition next week to force the House of Representatives to vote on the 2017 version of the Dream Act.

Meanwhile, a Senate version of the bill, submitted by Sen. Lindsay Graham, is also in the works and has 7 co-sponsors, including Flake.

During the press conference on Tuesday, Goldman offered some advice: First, he said, watch out for notarios, or people who would scam people looking for legal advice and help.

Then "take a deep breath. We are going to work through this, there will be a solution, and we can win this battle," he said. "This has been going on for years. This might be a bump in the road, but we have the energy to keep fighting."

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Supporters for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals during a protest earlier this year in Tucson.


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