Fresno advocates and officials met outside the city’s federal courthouse on Tuesday to speak out against President Donald Trump’s end of DACA, which has protected undocumented people who traveled to the U.S. illegally as minors from deportation – including thousands of local beneficiaries of the program.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be phased out, affecting more than 750,000 young people nationally, including 18,000 in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties. The program, created in 2012 by President Barack Obama, allowed reprieve from deportation for certain undocumented people, granting them work permits and the ability to attend college.
Now, people like Xavier Vasquez of Fresno are facing the unknown. Vasquez, 27, came to America illegally from Mexico when he was 13. He received DACA in 2013, and graduated from Fresno State with a degree in political science. He requested DACA renewal just last month, and the request is pending. If it’s approved, he will be able to keep his work permit for another two years.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, applications for DACA and work permits that have already been filed will be considered over the next six months. However, no new DACA applications will be accepted after Tuesday. People like Vasquez, whose benefits were set to expire by March, can request renewal until Oct. 5.
“We’re doing this because we want to support our families. We want to support our families and be part of this country,” Vasquez said. “I’m not just a piece of paper. I’m just like anyone else. I’m human.”
Also at Tuesday’s news conference, which was hosted by Mi Familia Vota, a national immigrant-advocacy group, Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria gave a passionate speech, saying, “It’s a sad day in America when people turn their backs on our children,” and urged other local officials to speak out.
“It’s sad that people have stood silent – that people continue to stay silent and not come together to fight for what is right,” she said. “To all the Dreamers, I tell you that I stand with you – that I will continue to fight hard here locally and I will continue to demand from our federal leaders to do their job, not only to address your status situation but their job to take care of all our families here in the United States that are working every day, hard.”
Mayor Lee Brand, who has refused to name Fresno a sanctuary city, issued a statement Tuesday calling for immigration reform and said he appreciates that Trump “has given congress a six-month window to act on this important issue.”
“I would also ask Congress to immediately begin work on a bipartisan approach that provides a permanent solution to give children who were brought here by their parents the opportunity to become productive citizens, the same way most of our ancestors did when they came to this great country,” Brand said. “America’s legacy is built on the hopes of immigrants, and our nation’s future depends on finding a full and fair resolution to our immigration issues.”
Allison Davenport, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, has been assisting DACA recipients in the Valley, and urged people to stay informed and seek legal counsel.
“I want to just emphasize: People who have DACA remain protected. The biggest change we’re seeing right now is the DACA program will be phased out over time. That means as of today, no new applications will be accepted for DACA,”she said. “If your application is pending today, it will be processed normally.”
Davenport said that while Tuesday’s announcement is “a major setback,” it creates renewed urgency for Congress to create a solution for undocumented people’s plight.