September 4, 2017 – Lauren Bale
President Trump is expected to make a controversial announcement Tuesday to end a program that protects undocumented children brought to the U.S. by their parents. That decision would impact 800,000 young adults, including an estimated 2,500 workers and students in Louisiana.
Local organizations are already speaking out against the decision, including Catholic Charities.
“It’s just inhumane and un-American,” Catholic Charities Division Director Martin Gutierrez said about the upcoming decision.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program that protects people brought to the U.S. as children. It allows qualified applicants to work legally in the U.S. and expires after two years, but can be renewed. Applicants must undergo a background check and pay almost $500. DACA applicants pay taxes but cannot use social programs such as the Affordable Care Act or food stamps.
Many applicants have lived in the U.S. for years.
“Most of them don’t know any other country but this one. This is their country,” Gutierrez said.
Trump could undo these protections over night.
“It would go against the spirit of what this nation is all about,” Gutierrez said.
It’s a decision White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president isn’t taking lightly.
“I think the decision itself is weighing on him,” Sanders said.
Trump has sent mixed messages on the issue in the past.
“We love the dreamers,” Trump said. “We love everybody.”
“I will immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration,” Trump also said about the same program. Those conflicting statements are leaving people who fight for immigrant rights feeling uneasy.
“The threat to end it (DACA) sends a resounding message of a lack of support of immigrants,” social worker at George Washington Carver High School, Lisa Maria Rhodes, said.
Currently there are around 2,500 DACA recipients in Louisiana.
“DACA recipients who have passed the background check, who are working and contributing to our state,” Nuestra Voz Executive Director Mary Moran said.
The Center for American Progress reports deporting those young adults would result in an annual GDP loss of $84 million in Louisiana alone. Local organizations are asking lawmakers to keep these workers in the U.S. and keep families together.
“Do the right thing,” Gutierrez said. “Do the right, fair and humane thing which is give them the opportunity or allow them to continue to have the opportunity to work or go to school.”
Rhodes is reminding educators to know their rights, which include not telling ICE if undocumented students are attending school. She also recommends talking with classrooms about immigration and making sure all students feel welcome.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu released the following statement on the upcoming decision:
“We are a nation of immigrants. Across the country, mayors, governors, CEOs, military leaders and faith leaders support the extension of the DACA program and permanent legal status for DREAMERS.
That’s because with work authorization and without the fear of deportation, these hardworking, law-abiding young people have been able to participate in and contribute to our country, our cities and the nation’s economy.
They believe in and have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
In New Orleans, we view our diversity as a strength. DREAMERS are an important part of our community and economy. “It’s up to Congress to act to not only extend DACA but to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”
Catholic Charities USA, USCCB and Catholic Legal Immigration Network sent a letter to President Trump urging him to continue supporting DACA. Read it here.