A day before President Donald Trump was expected to announce his decision on an Obama-era program protecting young immigrants from deportation, dozens of young people who fear how they could be affected by the decision joined a Labor Day march in downtown Los Angeles Monday.
Many vowed to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that has allowed them to remain in the country.
Though Trump has made no formal decision yet, news reports over the weekend indicated he will announced the end of DACA with a six-month delay.
The program guaranteed an estimated 800,000 children of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States would not be targeted for removal, as well as providing them opportunities to go to college, buy homes and pursue careers.
But DACA recipients say their status has remained in limbo since Trump took office. The White House has yet to give a clear answer on whether or not Trump truly plans to end the program.
“DACA is still in place and we must defend it,” Melody Klingenfuss, a DACA recipient and organizer with the California Dream Network, told a crowd Monday during a rally organized by the Service Employees International Union, which pushed for nationwide $15 hourly minimum wage.
“We must keep defending all these programs that give us a chance to exist,” she said. “The fight will not stop until we are judged by the content of our character and not the possession of a legal piece of paper or the color of our skin.”
Following Trump’s Tuesday announcement, organizers from the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles will hold a rally at the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles.
The issue was on the minds of many across downtown Los Angeles at the city’s annual Labor Day concert held this year at Grand Park. The concert featured live music from the bands Ozomatli and The Revolution, and was organized by Working Californians, a nonprofit that helps workers and residents who live in low-income areas connect with the business sector.
Brian D’Arcy, one of the founders of the organization, said many DACA recipients are part of labor unions that are members of Working Californians.
“It’s horrible, because (Trump’s) been giving them so many mixed messages,” D’Arcy said.
Klingenfuss was among hundreds of DACA recipients and their supporters at a similar rally on Friday, hoping to urge Trump to keep a promise he made earlier this year to consider preserving the program. Many wanted to remind the president of his comments to reporters in February that he was going “ to deal with DACA with great heart.”
“The DACA situation is a very difficult thing to me,” he said. “I find it very hard doing what the law said exactly to do, and you know the law is rough.”
Ivan Ceja, 25, who was brought to the United States when he was less than a year old, said he worries for the younger DACA recipients.
“They feel anxiety, depression, stress,” he said. “I’m a little older. I know what it’s like not to have DACA.”
But he also was frustrated, he said, with the lack of immigration reform.
The DACA program was executive order given by President Barack Obama shielding from deportation those who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and who met other criteria.
Those who applied under the program can also get work permits, continue their education, and apply for permission to travel in and out of the country. Recipients must renew their applications every two years.
But Ceja said the program always remained in a precarious state. Since 2001, the bipartisan DREAM Act that would guarantee many of the protections enacted under DACA has languished in Congress, leaving Obama’s order open to rescinding from future presidents.
The act is where DACA recipients, knows as “Dreamers,” get their name.
Ceja said Friday the lack of action from lawmakers guaranteeing DACA would survive left many who were protected by the program distrustful of either party.
“That’s why no one trusts either Republicans or Democrats,” he said.
Yoselin Bellodiaz, 20, said she was 3 years old when her mom brought her to the U.S. from Tijuana. The Perris resident, who also attended Friday’s rally, said she was studying criminal justice and journalism at a local community college.
“I’m trying really hard to do well, “ she said tearfully. When she heard last week that Trump might eliminate DACA, she said she was devastated.
“I feel like all we’ve done, all that hard work, can be eliminated in seconds,” she added.