September 07 2017

Trump announces wind down of DACA (Queens Chronicle)

Queens leaders slam the president’s decision to end immigrant program

by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor 

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that the federal government will wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program over the next six months, leaving the futures of about 800,000 beneficiaries across the nation who illegally came to the U.S. as children uncertain.

“The program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a Tuesday press conference. “The policy was implemented unilaterally, to great controversy and legal concern.”

Born as an executive order signed by former President Obama in 2012, DACA protects young people who illegally immigrated to the United States as children from deportation for a period of two years — or longer, if renewed.

Those eligible for the program had to have come to America by their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, have no criminal record and either be enrolled in school or a high school graduate. While not providing a path to citizenship, DACA also allows recipients to legally work in the United States.

As part of the six-month wind down of the policy, no new applications from childhood immigrants will be accepted. But those with applications pending and those who need to renew their status by Oct. 5 can still do so.

Republicans have slammed the program since its inception, criticizing its constitutionally questionable creation via executive order, and Trump pledged during last year’s presidential campaign to dismantle his predecessor’s immigration policies.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump placed the burden of dealing with DACA on Congress, while administration officials called on the House of Representatives and Senate to write the program into law — should its members decide to do so — as soon as possible.

Later Tuesday, however, Trump again took to Twitter to say that if Congress didn’t act on DACA, he will “revisit” the issue.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed an interest in solving the issue legislatively in a Tuesday statement, while Trump said in a press release that he looks forward to working with Congress.

“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion —but through the democratic process,” Trump said, “while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve.”

If Congress fails to pass legislation that Trump finds suitable enough to sign by DACA’s expiration date of March 5, 2018, then its 800,000 enrollees in the United States known as “Dreamers” — about 30,000 of whom live in New York City — could be eligible to be deported to countries many of them have never known.

As expected, reaction across the city to Trump’s move was that of fury.

After protests last week, a large group of demonstrators descended on Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday to slam the decision, while immigrant rights group Make the Road New York pledged on social media to sue.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) said in a statement that Trump’s move wasn’t surprising, considering the president’s history of “demonizing immigrants.”

“It is absurd to think that our nation’s interests are served by ending this program and forcing these individuals back into the shadows,” Crowley said. “Without a doubt, this action is both heartless and senseless.

“It is now time for Republicans in Congress to stand up. At a minimum, Congress must act to reverse this harmful and revolting policy change,” he continued. “Bicameral legislation has been introduced that would protect this population -— and there is no reason for Republicans to delay bringing it to the House and Senate floors for a vote.”

Crowley’s colleague, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens), called it the latest example of the administration’s “hateful idealogy” and said it will cause vast economic damage.

“These are Americans. Many of them have known no other home. Some of them speak only English and many came here when they were so young that they cannot even remember the journey,” Velazquez said in a statement. “Their parents brought them here in search of a better life, seeking that simple, but uniquely American compact — the promise that America is the land of opportunity, where anyone with a dream and the right talent and perseverance can succeed.”

In recent weeks, there has been speculation that Trump and Congressional Republicans may try to tie DACA protections — or even federal aid for Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas — to funding for the president’s proposed border wall in an upcoming spending bill, forcing Democrats into a tricky political corner.

But like her colleague, Velazquez called for a “clean” up-and-down vote on legislation simply designed to protect Dreamers.

Legal challenges may also be on the horizon, as Gov. Cuomo tweeted both Monday and Tuesday that if Trump rescinds DACA, New York will file a lawsuit to stop him.

Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio, who has been a sharp critic of Trump, slammed the president in a Tuesday press conference and pledged in a press release to hold a “DACA Day of Action” in the near future.

But his Republican challenger this fall, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn), took a more moderate tone a day before the administration’s announcement, calling on Trump to not rescind DACA and Congress to act.

“This is an opportunity for President Trump and Congress to fix a broken system once and for all, so that these young people, brought to the United States at an early age and educated in our schools can have the opportunity to become citizens and fulfill their dreams,” she said.

On a borough level, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who represents some of Queens’ most immigrant-heavy communities, called Trump a racist in a Tuesday statement and promised to help lead the fight against his decision.

“The one thing that we can take solace in is the fact that this is only the beginning,” Moya said. “Mark my words: We will send a powerful message to Trump that we no longer have to live in the shadows.”

Even the borough’s lone elected Republican, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) disagreed with Trump’s decision, citing his Catholic faith.

“DACA is about respecting human dignity. Children of undocumented immigrants deserve our compassion. The President should reconsider repealing DACA.”

A number of Queens educational and cultural entities also blasted the president.

In a Tuesday statement, James Hong, the co-director of Flushing’s MinKwon Center, called Tuesday a “sad and disappointing day” in our nation’s history.

Hong also called out Trump’s “deep hypocrisy” when it comes to following the law, citing his recent pardoning of former Arizona sherriff Joe Arpaio — who was convicted of defying court orders over his detainment of Latinos — and his controversial travel bans.

“Economically, morally and socially, our country is now worse off,” Hong said. “Trump has opened a wound to our country, one we do not expect to heal soon.”

The MinKwon Center, which has helped process over 1,200 DACA applications, is also creating a services hotline.

Individuals can dial (718) 460-5600 seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for more information.

LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow worried what Trump’s decision meant for her students and those across the country, saying many are just trying to make better lives for themselves and their families.

“I strongly urge Congress and the courts to overturn today’s calamitous decision by President Trump,” Mellow said. “We owe it to our students and our neighbors to protect and retain DACA, which is vital to our country’s values and communities.”

Like the MinKwon Center, LaGuardia Community College has established a resource guide for anyone impacted by DACA’s phasing out.

The webpage — — features information on how to acquire confidential legal and financial help regarding one’s immigration status, as well as a frequently asked questions section about DACA and contact information for various immigrant rights and legal services groups.