As reports surfaced that President Trump is planning to upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants by terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, two unions issued statements expressing outrage at Trump’s pending decision.
President Obama in 2012 issued an executive order, DACA, that created a way for people who immigrated to the US as children with their parents but lack official immigration documents to work, study, and live without fear of deportation.
More than 780,000 people have taken advantage of DACA since then.
Their jobs, their studies, their livelihoods, and their futures all are now at stake.
“Ending DACA would crush the hopes and dreams of nearly 800,000 young people who today are able to live here lawfully, go to school, work, and plan for their future. Suddenly, they would become deportable to lands they may barely remember,” said Rocio Sáenz international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “This is a cruel and counterproductive move driven by a hateful, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist agenda.”
“At a time when the words and actions of this administration have encouraged white supremacists and others who foment racial hatred and division, targeting these law abiding young people who work, study, and have become valuable members of our diverse nation, would send a dreadful message to our nation,” said Deborah Burger, co-chair of National Nurses United (NNU).
President Trump’s imminent decision to overturn DACA comes as a result of a September 5 deadline imposed on him by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 9 other Republican state attorneys generals.
Back in June, Paxton and the other attorneys general sent a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions informing him that they would file a lawsuit to overturn DACA unless President Trump terminates it by September 5.
Filing the suit would temporarily suspend DACA until a court rules on it.
Hundreds of thousands of people who came to the US as children with their parents have used DACA to build lives and contribute to the well being of their communities.
Sáenz said that the fact that many of these hard working people could be harassed and deported is a personal issue for him and other SEIU members.
“Many of our friends and family members are today able to live, work and contribute to our country because of DACA,” said Sáenz. “Together, we stand united in the face of white supremacy and hateful attacks against our communities and vow to stand up against Trump’s racist mass deportation efforts and fight for social, economic and racial justice.”
Burger said that rescinding DACA would intensify the wounds of racism inflamed by the recent events in Charlottesville.
“After Charlottesville, the message of terminating DACA could not be worse,” said Burger. “Millions of families in our nation have already been traumatized by the escalation of deportations of peaceful, law abiding undocumented immigrants. We see more and more people, who work and pay taxes, fearful of getting the health care they need when they are sick, or interacting with other components of civil society. That is wrong and immoral.”
Burger said that instead of threatening those who have benefited from DACA, Trump should work for “a comprehensive federal program of humane immigration reform, premised on a path to citizenship for those without violent criminal records who reside in the US, and an end to arbitrary raids and deportations of non-violent immigrants.”
Unions in Texas have also joined in the fight to save DACA.
On August 15, demonstrators gathered in front of Paxton’s office at the state capital complex in Austin to protest his threat to sue the government in order to end DACA.
Six of the protesters conducted a sit-in at the office and were arrested.
Those arrested included Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin (the Austin teachers union), Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, and Patrick Harvey of the Texas State Teachers Association.
“Educators deal with so many students, some who are documented, some who are undocumented,” said Zarifis to the Austin American Statesman explaining why union educators were supporting DACA. “A lot of kids need support, and many of them need DACA. That program is the way to help kids, not to tear it away. Educators need to stand up and say so.”