WASHINGTON – Two Democratic senators called on President Trump to keep President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in place so undocumented immigrants can “live without fear” and apply for protection from deportation.
“It was created with a very important purpose, which is to allow young people who were brought here as children to come out of the shadows and live without fear. Let’s be clear about who these young people are – they’ve only known this country as their home,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said on a conference call with reporters held by America’s Voice Education Fund on Monday.
“In five years, thousands of DACA recipients have gone to college, filled jobs in high-demand areas, such as in IT and healthcare, opened small businesses, they have given back to their community as volunteers or through their churches, they have served in the military defending this country and our freedom. And now DACA is under assault by this administration,” she added.
The DACA program, which was implemented via an executive order in 2012, faces a possible battle in court from Texas and other states. Harris criticized the Trump administration for not publicly committing to defending the program against a court challenge and said Congress should pass the DREAM Act.
“We need a permanent solution and we need to pass the DREAM Act,” she said. “In the longer term there’s no question we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but let’s be clear – ending DACA will hurt the economy and it will make us less safe. It also undermines our values. We are a nation of immigrants and we must resolve this issue in a way that supports these young people who are contributing to our society, to our economy and to our future.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) echoed Harris’ position on the Trump administration’s handling of DACA. Masto said Nevada’s economy would lose about $585 million every year if the more than 12,000 DACA recipients in the state were deported.
“Let me tell you. They are fighters. They never give up. They are working hard to get an education. They are going home and working with their parents to make sure they can continue to help them put food on the table and care for their other loved ones,” she said.
“It is wrong that these extraordinary young men and women brought to this country as children face constant uncertainty about their future. We have to help them live up to their full potential and protect them from being targeted by politics based on hate and vitriol,” she added.
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson recently told PJM that the agency is processing new DACA applications and renewals.
“We are still receiving and processing DACA renewal requests and, yes, we continue to receive and process first-time DACA initial requests,” the spokesperson said.
Harris said Democrats should remain “cautiously optimistic” about Congress passing the DREAM Act as “one step” toward a comprehensive immigration package.
“Plan B is to also encourage us to keep talking about this and pointing out who the DREAMers are because I do believe we should feel optimistic, cautiously optimistic, about the ability to pass this act and then look at it as one step towards comprehensive immigration reform as the larger policy push and the ultimate point of it all,” she said.
PJM asked Harris’ office if she would support the Trump administration if it decided to allow current DACA recipients to continuing renewing their status but discontinue the program for new applicants.
“No – leaving eligible young people vulnerable to the president’s deportation force is not an acceptable outcome. The senator has been clear the program should be kept as a whole,” a spokesperson for Harris replied.