Today, the Trump administration announced it would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The Obama-era program protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits.
About a hundred protesters gathered in downtown Anchorage to oppose the decision. The protest was organized by the left-leaning group Indivisible Anchorage, which is part of a network of groups that popped up to oppose President Trump’s agenda. Shoshanah Stone is one of the organizers. She said for many DACA recipients, living in the U.S. is all they can remember.
“They’ve been here living, working, going to school,” Stone said. “And this is just a wrong.”
There are estimated to be just under 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. A little less than 150 are in Alaska, according to the Center for American Progress.
Earlier this year, President Trump told ABC News that these people, known as dreamers, “shouldn’t be very worried” about deportation. Anchorage Assembly member Felix Rivera is among the protesters who say Trump is being unfaithful to his word.
“The president today broke a promise to 800,000 young individuals who by all rights are Americans; they just don’t have that piece of paper,” Rivera said.
That sentiment was echoed by Lea McDermid, an Anchorage immigration attorney. She said anticipation of the president’s decision rushed several of her clients to renew their DACA permits — she even had one client file last week, right under the wire.
“We didn’t know exactly what would happen, but we knew that something could be announced today,” McDermid said. “So I definitely wanted to get it filed before that happened.”
The Department of Homeland Security will not process any new permits going forward. But McDermid said the president’s decision doesn’t mean that dreamers will be immediately deported.
“A lot of people with DACA have other options for staying legally in the country and they may not be aware of that,” McDermid said. “So my advice to them would be to consult with an immigration attorney to find out if they have other options available.”
Current DACA recipients can hang onto their 2-year work permits until they expire. After that the program is in the hands of Congress. The Trump administration is delaying fully ending the program until March 2018. The president said that gives lawmakers six months to pass new legislation if they want to protect Dreamers.