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Ending DACA sparks protests

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-09-06 10:27

White House halts young-immigrant program; fate rests with Congress

Ending DACA sparks protests

Protesters outside the White House in Washington on Tuesday morning demonstrate against the Trump administration's decision to end DACA, an Obama-era program that protects from deportation some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. CHEN WEIHUA / CHINA DAILY

The announcement on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump's administration will cancel DACA, a program that protects from deportation some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, triggered protests in Washington and across the nation.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision on Tuesday morning. Under the decision, the Department of Homeland Security will stop processing new applications for the program and the Obama-era policy known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, implemented by executive order 2012, is rescinded.

Any DACA recipients with a permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, will have the opportunity to apply for a two-year renewal.

"I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded," Sessions said.

After Sessions' speech, Trump issued a statement, calling it "in the best interest of our country" to "begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption".

"I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act," Trump said.

"We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion - but through the lawful democratic process - while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve," Trump said.

Prior to a White House meeting, Trump told reporters that he has "great love" for the young immigrants protected by the DACA program and hopes "Congress will be able to help them and do it properly".

Just as Sessions was making the announcement at the Justice Department, hundreds of people gathered outside the White House protesting the decision. Many protesters marched to the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Francisco Lasso, from Woodbridge, Virginia, said he was a DACA recipient and a "Dreamer", the nickname given to participants in the program. "I am protesting because we need to do something about DACA. We need to pressure Congress to make it a permanent statute. Right now, it's only an executive order, which could be revoked at any time. It's vulnerable to anything," he told China Daily outside the White House.

Lasso, who is originally from Ecuador, is not optimistic about Congress.

"Congress, honestly, I don't think they will do anything. Probably it will just end up being revoked. That's my honest opinion, but we always have to be, you know, somewhat on the optimistic side," he said, citing support from the Democratic Party and people like Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Shelley Winkler of Maryland said children who were brought to the US very young, have grown up here and gone to school here should not be threatened with being sent back to places they don't know. "That's cruel, vicious and mean," she told China Daily.

"[It's] against our entire history," she added. "I hope the Congress does the right thing, and allows them to stay here and to be the productive citizens they already are."

Maria Moreno, a student, traveled all the way from Yonkers, New York, to join the protest. She is not a Dreamer but said she represents her friends who are Dreamers but who could not come to protest.

"DACA gives them opportunity. I know my friends. They were able to get jobs, degrees at schools and if they end it, on and off, what's going to happen," she said.

Later in the day, former president Barack Obama called the decision to phase out DACA "cruel" and "self-defeating".

Obama did not mention Trump by name in his statement but said a "shadow has been cast" over some of the nation's best and brightest young people. He said targeting them was wrong "because they have done nothing wrong".

Protests also took place on Tuesday in New York, Denver and Phoenix, Arizona.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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