By Jennie L. Ilustre
WASHINGTON D.C. Asian American presented a united front against Pres. Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), vowing to support efforts in the courts and on Capitol Hill to protect about 800,000 beneficiaries – also known as the Dreamers – that include nearly 5,000 Filipinos.
“The security and opportunity afforded to DACA recipients is a true representation of the American Dream,” said Chairman Brendan Flores of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).
He lambasted the White House decision because it “unjustly rips away the ladder of opportunity for hard-working people, divides families, and pushes immigrant communities back into the shadows.”
Lawyer Arnedo S. Valera of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) called on Capitol Hill to “permanently resolve the DACA issue by swiftly passing the bipartisan 2017 DREAM Act.” He also renewed his call for comprehensive immigration reform, underscoring legislation over executive action, which by its nature is temporary.
The 2017 DREAM Act was introduced last July 20 in the 115th U.S. Congress by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D, Illinois.) Its passage will be an uphill climb, observers say, noting the rising xenophobia among some segments of society, as well as the failure of the current Congress to pass any major legislation.
“NaFFAA stands in solidarity with diverse community organizations fighting for the nearly 800,000 young individuals – including nearly 5,000 Filipinos – who have benefited from DACA so that they can reach their full potential,” Flores declared.
Created under the Obama Administration in 2012, DACA has allowed individuals who were brought into the country as children by their undocumented parents to receive work permits and to be protected from deportation. In a decision announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump White House rescinded the Obama order with a six-month delay to allow the Congress to enact a permanent solution to the Dreamers’ plight.
The decision to rescind DACA, said NaFFAA Executive Director Jason Tengco, was a major setback to DACA recipients who are “American in every sense of the way, except for their paperwork, and we should allow them to thrive and build lives here in the United States.”
“Now is the time to take our fight to Capitol Hill, and NaFFAA renews its call for Congress to pass the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform that unites families, rather than divides them,” Tengco added.
Attorneys general in 15 primarily Democratic states sued the White House Sept. 6 to block the White House decision and protect Dreamers. The lawsuit filed in federal court in New York explicitly invokes Pres. Trump’s campaign rhetoric to argue that his decision to end DACA is driven by bias against Latinos. This was the same argument critics used to block implementation of the President’s travel ban earlier this year.
“President Trump has a long history of disparaging Mexicans, who comprise the vast majority of DACA grantees,” the complaint says, citing his description of Mexicans as rapists, alleging that a federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel was unfair because of his Latino heritage, and his ejection of Latino Univision reporter Jorge Ramos from a campaign news conference, among other things.
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) called Pres. Trump’s decision “heartless” and a “continuation of this Administration’s attack on immigrant communities.”
“If the administration wants Congress to pass legislation to protect these 800,000 people, then they should keep DACA intact until Congress is able to do so,” declared Quyen Dinh, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).
“We stand ready to fight and protect families that will suffer the repercussions of this heartless policy decision. We call on congressional leaders to defend the rights of all immigrants and refugees by enacting long-term, humane legislation that protects the vulnerable and keeps families together.”
“Terminating DACA will irreparably harm undocumented immigrant communities. Over 800,000 DACA recipients, approximately 16,000 of whom are AAPI, will now be forced to go back into hiding. By canceling DACA, President Trump has failed both morally and politically,” observed Vicki Shu, Vice President of Public Affairs, OCA National.
“Congress must move immediately to pass a clean, stand-alone DREAM Act that does not harm other immigrants. Such legislation should not use youth as bargaining chips to criminalize their parents and increase border and interior enforcement. We also call for a moratorium on deportations, with absolutely no data sharing [between local law enforcement and ICE] to facilitate immigration enforcement actions,” chimed Jung Woo Kim, Co-lead of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC).
John C. Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) declared, “We stand together with DACA recipients, including more than 16,000 Asian Americans, many of whom have pursued higher education, financially provided for themselves and their families, and contributed to the growth of the economy and the strength of America – all because the DACA program afforded them a chance.
“It is morally unconscionable for our government to strip these young men and women of the protections DACA has provided, after our government had asked these young people to come out of the shadows and trust the government to protect them.”
“This administrative decision hurts aspiring Americans, their families and all of our communities by cutting a program designed to create jobs and grow our economy. We stand committed to the needs of all members of our communities and will continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Jeffrey Caballero, Executive Director, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO).
“We are outraged and heartbroken by this disgusting move that targets and endangers hundreds of thousands of young immigrants for deportation. The administration’s brazen agenda laced with racism, hate, and xenophobia continues to threaten the very existence of ours- and allied- communities. APALA will not tolerate the mass criminalization of people of color nor will we be idle as our family, friends, and co-workers come under immediate threat,” said Alvina Yeh, Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).
Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT): stressed that “America deserves a commonsense immigration process, one that includes a roadmap for new Americans who aspire to be citizens.
“We must demand policies that are consistent with our core values as a nation, and we must make our voices heard and demand Congress reform our immigration policies now. We are America and we are here to stay.”