President Donald Trump scrapped a program benefiting young people who entered the U.S. illegally as children but left the announcement to a member of his Cabinet who had long railed against it.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rather than Trump, announced Tuesday the unwinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Sessions said the Obama-era policy was unconstitutional and could not withstand a legal challenge.
"For one moment you think everything is going to be okay, but when you have to think about your future it’s unbalanced," said Andrea Argueta, an 11th grade student at STEM Preparatory Academy and DACA recipient. "You just don’t know if your dreams will come true to help your family."
Trump made a campaign promise to end protections for the young immigrants protected by the program. As president, he has expressed sympathy for the participants, sometimes called "Dreamers," and struggled with the decision.
"I felt heartbroken," said 11th grade student Evelyn Mathe shortly after the announcement. "We were given an opportunity to make our lives better and now it’s being taken away. It’s unfair for people who are innocent."
The president notably chose not to be the face of Tuesday's announcement. Sessions has been known as an immigration hardliner who had been urging the president to fulfill his campaign promise.
Sessions announced the administration will stop accepting new applications for DACA. Congress will get six months to pass a new version before officials stop renewing permits altogether.
Tuesday’s announcement has left thousands of lives in limbo across Tennessee. More than 8,300 people in the Volunteer State are DACA recipients.
The people most impacted by the announcement came to the United States as children with their parents. Many have never known life outside of the U.S.
A handful of DACA recipients and advocates watched as Sessions made the announcement. He said the decision was about enforcing laws, which will save lives and prevent crime.
DACA advocates in Nashville said they respect and support those goals, but claimed dismantling the program does not target criminals – it targets children, students, and young working professionals.
They said while the decision was disheartening for them, they would not give up hope.
DACA supporters marched in Nashville to the office of Senator Bob Corker to express their disagreement with the Trump administration decision.
The attorneys general of California and New York have said they were prepared to take legal action against the Trump administration over its decision to end a program for young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or overstayed visas.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state was prepared to defend DACA participants. His office was evaluating the order to end the program in six months and determining what legal arguments to make in a lawsuit.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said ending the program allowing hundreds of thousands of immigrants to remain in the United States was cruel and unwarranted.
Several Nashville leaders expressed their displeasure with the DACA announcement.
Congressman Jim Cooper (D)
President Obama was right to protect 750,000 young men and women, including more than 8,000 Tennesseans, from the cruelty of deportation. These young people are innocent. Their lack of paperwork is not their fault, so they should not be punished. They’ve committed to obeying our laws, working hard, getting an education and, if they choose, even serving in our military. President Trump once pledged a compassionate approach to these Dreamers, so ending DACA would be another of his broken promises.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry
The decision by President Trump to slam the door on hundreds of thousands of DREAMers across the nation is heartbreaking. Many of these children and young adults who are DACA recipients have only ever known the United States as their home. They deserve the chance to gain an education, earn a living, and continue contributing to our community without fear or threat of deportation. I would urge Congress to recognize this and immediately pass legislation that restores DACA as the law of the land.
Metro Nashville Public Schools
… In light of President Trump’s announced intention to end Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Metro Nashville Public Schools wants to reassert our belief that all school-aged students should have access to an excellent education, and thus access to enhanced opportunities, without regard to their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents.
Students affected by ending DACA include high school students who are presently participating in the program and younger students (age 10-14) who will be eligible upon turning 15. Moreover, and perhaps more tragic, it exposes parents of United States citizens to deportation even though the parent arrived in this country as a child and the United States may be the only home he/she has known. In effect, their children are second generation Americans and the living embodiment of the American dream. Nevertheless, the rescission of DACA will either require these young U.S. citizens to leave the country or be separated from their parents despite their parents’ longstanding residency and contribution to our community.
The intended rescission of DACA denies our schools and communities many ambitious, intelligent, and highly-motivated students, parents, teachers and staff and will result in fear and uncertainty for many of the families and students we serve. Plainly stated, the result of the President’s announced ending to DACA is unacceptable. We call on Congress to enact the Dream Act or otherwise codify DACA with legislation immediately.
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos
Ending DACA is a mistake. Without an alternative in place, it closes the door to young student scholars and leaders raised and educated in the United States and cuts short their potential to contribute to their communities and our national economy. We urge and stand ready to support swift enactment of legislation, such as the BRIDGE Act, that allows these young people to reach their dreams in the only nation they’ve ever called home.
Our mission of teaching and discovery demands a vibrant academic environment supported by a culture of curiosity, diversity, access and inclusion. To that end, we will continue to support and embrace our students [news.vanderbilt.edu] regardless of immigration status, citizenship or nationality.
Congressman Steve Cohen (D)
President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program is heartless, illogical and un-American. DACA is a commonsense, compassionate program that helps protect from deportation young people who were brought to the United States by no choice of their own. According to the Center for American Progress, 95% of these DREAMers are currently either working or in school. The decision is not only harmful for the DREAMers, but also for America which relies on them for a more effective and productive workforce. I urge Congress to move quickly to protect these bright and talented young people who have significantly contributed to what makes America great.
ACLU of Tennessee
Today, the government and President Trump threw the lives and futures of 800,000 Dreamers and their families into disarray, and injected chaos and uncertainty into thousands of workplaces and communities across America. In Tennessee alone, more than 8,300 of our neighbors used their DACA status to give back to our country in innumerable ways: they are our doctors, soldiers, and students. Our neighbors, family, and friends.
Now, the fate of 800,000 young adults who were part of DACA nationwide, who call this country their home, lies in the hands of Congress. Lawmakers such as Senators Corker and Alexander, Congressman Duncan and others must decide if they are on the side of Dreamers and our country's foundation or on the side of the ugly forces that helped to end DACA.
While this is a hard day for the immigrant community and America as a whole, we will continue to fight. Years of courage, sacrifices, and organizing won the DACA program in 2012. Nothing will deter these Americans and our allies in Tennessee and across the country from continuing to fight on behalf of their futures and holding those responsible accountable.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini
Democrats proudly stand by the 8,340 DACA beneficiaries in Tennessee. We will continue to work to fix our broken immigration system and the most important step in doing so is to support the young DREAMers who were brought here by no fault of their own and are positively contributing to the health and well-being of this country. The Trump adminstration has bent to the wishes of extremists in the Republican party and has turned its back on hard-working students and families, forcing thousands of young people back into the shadows and tearing families and communities apart. It is a cruel and devastating blow to the young immigrants who know no other country than this one. Senator Corker and Senator Alexander voted for the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation that included[t.e2ma.net] provisions of the DREAM ACT, but Republican leadership in the US House never even allowed a vote. Senators Corker and Alexander should commit to protect DREAMers as they have before and all Tennessee Republicans should support legislation in Congress to protect our DREAMers and keep our communities safe.