The Trump administration's announcement on Tuesday that it would limit the legal protections of hundreds of thousands of young adults who immigrated to this country as children was slammed by recipients and advocates of the program known as DACA.
"They are profiting from us, from our work, from our effort," said Lidieth Arevalo, a DACA recipient, after learning that the Trump administration will limit DACA renewals to one year instead of two and reject new applications. "They do not want to give us the humanity we deserve."
It's a new setback after the Supreme Court's recent ruling that allowed the Obama-era program to stay in place.
That ruling determined that the administration acted illegally in its 2017 plan to dismantle DACA and asked it to present new arguments to eventually proceed in that direction, although it did not rule on the legality of the program.
Alberto Gutiérrez was planning to apply for the first time. "Now I won't have a social security number to be able to secure employment," he said.
The DACA program was launched by the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2012. It's designed to temporarily protect young people who came to the United States at a young age and allow them to work and study without fear of deportation.
"It's such an uncertainty, not to be able to plan my life," said Adonias Arevalo, who has just renewed his two-year permit and is afraid this benefit will be reduced.
"I am very alarmed"
Todd Schulte, president of the bipartisan political organization FWD.us, called the move "a two-step plan to kill DACA, while pretending otherwise."
Schulte believes that the administration will move to radically reduce the benefits of DACA. "Second, they have set the stage to kill DACA in 2021—or even later this year," he said.
"I am very alarmed," said Juan Escalante, a Dreamer and activist with FWD.us, told Telemundo News. "We see that the president one day telling Noticias Telemundo and the country one thing about the DREAMers and about the DACA program. And on another day he acts capriciously and away from what the court indicated."
Escalante was referencing Trump's recent statements in an interview with Noticias Telemundo, where he promised an executive order that would open the way to citizenship for Dreamers.
"We must not fall for the political tricks and lies of Trump," said Erika Andiola, a Dreamer and member of RAICES, an immigrant advocacy organization.
"The reduction of the program by the administration will disqualify some DACA beneficiaries who have participated in the program for years," said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council. "Some DREAMers will be forced to become unemployed, including some who are at the forefront of our fight against the coronavirus," she added.
DACA advocates ready to fight
"Let's be clear. The Supreme Court rejected the repeal of DACA. That means DACA returns to its original state and the Trump administration must reopen the program. And they must do so now," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, one of the first to call for legislation to protect Dreamers.
Durbin indicated that the changes to the DACA program announced on Tuesday may affect 300,000 young people who have not yet been able to apply. The Migration Policy Institute, a group of non-partisan immigration experts, estimates there are over 1.3 million potential beneficiaries among the nearly 650,000 people who have already benefited from DACA and those who have all the requirements to access this protection.
A senior administration official said they would be carrying out a "comprehensive review" of the legality of the program. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, said in a statement that there are "important policy reasons that may warrant the complete rescission of DACA policy."
His department further argued that keeping a program like DACA going could encourage individuals to take a dangerous journey to this country, unnecessarily endangering children.
Asked Tuesday what his plans were on this issue, Trump said "we are going to satisfy the DACA people and we are going to establish a merit-based immigration system." He did not elaborate further.
Dreamers and activists have promised a new legal battle to challenge Pres. Trump and the administration's plans to narrow the scope of DACA. "We are going to fight in the courts so that this president accepts the new requests and heeds all the courts," said Angélica Salas, director of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHIRLA), in remarks to the news agency EFE.
"No one here is going to get tired until we achieve permanent change and a path to citizenship," said Escalante.