Kevin Emanuel Duarte Chon, 21, is blunt about what it means to him if the plug is pulled on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program: “It would essentially mean my life is over.”
Duarte Chon came to the US from Guatemala with his parents when he was five years old. “If I was to be deported, it would be like erasing everything that I have."
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced yesterday the decision to rescind the DACA program, brought in by executive order by then president Obama in 2012. The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA puts hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in the United States as children and have strong ties to the United States at risk of expulsion and harm. All of them took the risk of putting their faith in the government’s promises when they came forward to participate in the program, and all of them now risk paying a steep and indefensible price for offering their trust.
In the shadow of Trump Tower, a crowd of several hundred gathered to protest Trump’s repeal of DACA yesterday. Several “Dreamers” shared their reactions with Human Rights Watch.
“Trump never pledged to support our community,” said Silvia Huerta, 23, a Dreamer who arrived in the US from Mexico when she was six years old. The looming demise of DACA jeopardizes Huerte’s livelihood – she works at a Philadelphia children’s hospital, a job that without DACA would have been unobtainable. But she was protesting for more than herself and others like her. She wants reform that “grant[s] dignity and respect for family and this includes parents and any people who didn’t qualify for DACA.”
Sarai Bravo, 24, who came to the US from Mexico with her parents when she was four years old, says today’s decision is a call for unity and action: “We need to put all of our emotions and anger we’re feeling into something bigger, helping all sides of the immigration community, undocumented and Dreamers.”
“We’ve been promised for the past 10 years that Congress and politicians were going to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and that hasn’t happened. So, I think the hope we have right now is in our community, educating them and making our voices heard, and showing the people in this country that 11 million people have a lot of power.”
Human Rights Watch has long worked to document the impacts of deportation and family separation resulting from the US immigration system. Almost 800,000 people have received DACA status since its inception. DACA has provided tremendous benefits to recipients. The program has popular support with 78 percent of voters saying that Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the US. Support for Dreamers even extends to Trump voters, with about three quarters of his backers saying they want them to be able to stay in the US.