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By Josh Inocéncio
For months, President Donald Trump has wavered on whether to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), implying at one point that recipients, commonly known as DREAMers, have nothing to fear.
But today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would not renew the protections, allowing the program to expire March 5, 2018.
The Obama administration created DACA in 2012 to help those born in other countries but brought here as children by their parents to get an education and work. Rescinding these opportunities puts an estimated 800,000 people at risk of deportation.
LGBTQ advocacy groups swiftly denounced the president’s decision.
Equality Texas, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, noted that at least 76,000 DREAMers identify as LGBTQ. And, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the situation is more dire for DACA recipients and their families. Houston has the nation’s third-largest immigrant population.
“Undocumented immigrants displaced by the hurricane’s devastation may not be eligible for disaster assistance unless they apply on behalf of their U.S. citizen child,” Equality Texas said in a news release. “At a time when immigrants and Texas-born families are diligently working together to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, an end to DACA would further rip our families apart, and unjustly instill fear within our communities.”
In addition, Equality Texas called upon Congress to ensure that DACA continues through bipartisan legislation. (President Trump claims that his main concern is the constitutionality of DACA as an executive order.)
Inspired by what this decision could mean for Houstonians after Harvey, Buzzfeed interviewed Jesus Contreras, a 23-year-old paramedic and DACA recipient who rescued people for six days straight after the storm hit.
“Hearing that my future in the United States is being threatened and possibly taken away was disheartening, it was disappointing,” Contreras told Buzzfeed. “It was like getting an extra kick to the face when you’re already down.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a news release that LGBTQ recipients face even harsher consequence as they may be deported to countries that aren’t as tolerant toward queer people.
“This administration just turned the lives of tens of thousands of our community members upside down, putting their dreams, their futures, and potentially their safety at risk,” the group wrote.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) noted that in countries like El Salvador, “transgender women have faced such a tremendous upsurge in violence.” HRC also reiterated that it has endorsed the Dream Act, the 2017 bill introduced in July, that would enshrine DACA in statute.
Lambda Legal said Trump’s decision to end DACA “serves no other purpose but to score cheap political points,” noting that it follows the president’s pardon of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“While people of all races, faiths and immigration statuses in Texas have united to help their neighbors and save their communities from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Trump is doubling down on his white supremacist and divisive agenda,” Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven said. “Ripping human beings away from their families and they only home they know to drop them in countries that are a faint memory, at best, is barbaric.”
United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the United States is circulating a “5 Things to Know About Trump’s Announcement to End DACA” pamphlet to inform recipients on the contours of the president’s order. The document notes that work permits are valid until expiration dates, that no new DACA applications will be accepted as of September 5, and that renewals must be submitted by October 5. The group has also organized a Defend DACA protest in Houston for this evening.
Frances Valdez, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said the group is drafting a joint news release with several other political groups. They will read their statements outside Univision at 6:30 p.m.