Herald staff and news services
President Donald Trump on Tuesday began dismantling Barack Obama’s program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, declaring he loves the “Dreamers” who could face deportation but insisting it’s up to Congress, not him, to address their plight.
Trump didn’t specify what he wanted done, essentially sending a six-month time bomb to his fellow Republicans in Congress who have no consensus on how to defuse it.
About 60 people gathered Tuesday evening in Lynnwood to protest Trump’s decision. The crowd along 196th Street SW near the convention center was summoned through social media.
Victoria Castaneda Vargas said she is an immigrant and a U.S. citizen who now lives in Lynnwood. She said that it is both her right and responsibility to speak out.
For many young people she knows, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, or DACA, is the only chance to get a work permit and to pursue a college education.
“This ridiculous announcement today affects not only the students but the community as a whole,” she said.
Rosario Reyes, also of Lynnwood, said she was “heartbroken” by the president’s announcement but also was thrilled to see how diverse was the crowd in Lynnwood on Tuesday. People appeared to be of all races and many different age groups.
“It’s inspiring,” Reyes said. “That’s what’s needed in these times. We need to unite. This is a beautiful statement about south Snohomish County.”
Anita Dietrich, of the Everett Resistance Movement, played a key role in pulling people together the protest. She and others have been gathering there on Tuesdays for the past few weeks to publicly question Trump’s policies.
Some have stopped to thank them, she said. Others have been less supportive.
“I’m 61 and I’ve been flipped off more times in the last three weeks than I have been in my entire life,” she said.
On Twitter on Tuesday night, Trump wrote: “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”
The president tried to have it both ways with his compromise plan: fulfilling his campaign promise to eliminate the program, while at the same time showing compassion for those who would lose deportation protection and the ability to work legally in the U.S. New applications will be rejected and the program will be formally rescinded, but the administration will continue to renew existing two-year work permits for the next six months, giving Congress time to act.
“I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly,” Trump said.
Yet at the same time, the White House distributed talking points to members of Congress that included a dark warning: “The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”
Although Trump’s announcement had been anticipated in recent days, it still left young people covered by the DACA program reeling.
“You just feel like you are empty,” said a sobbing Paola Martinez, 23, who came to the U.S. from Colombia and recently graduated with a civil engineering degree from Florida International University
“I honestly can’t even process it right now,” said Karen Marin, an immigrant from Mexico, who was in a physics class at Bronx Community College when the news broke. “I’m still trying to get myself together.”
Their predicament now shifts to Congress, which has repeatedly tried — and failed — to pass immigration legislation.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president would look to Congress to pass a “responsible immigration reform package” with money to control the border with Mexico and better protect American workers’ jobs — along with protecting “dreamers.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said if Trump truly wants a comprehensive immigration reform package, including a solution for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, he’s certain to be disappointed. Congress tried that and failed in 2013, and GOP leaders immediately ruled it out Tuesday.
“Guaranteed failure,” Cornyn said.
If the goal is a more incremental package that combines a solution for the “dreamers” with steps such as visa reforms and enhanced border security, “there may be a deal to be had,” Cornyn said.
“The President’s actions today are cruel, heartless and do nothing to secure our borders or fix our immigration system,” said U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., whose district includes much of the eastern half of Snohomish County.
“I believe it is both a moral and economic imperative to fix the nation’s broken immigration system in a bipartisan way so that it works for families and our economy,” she said. “Punishing young people who are in the United States by no fault of their own is not the way to do that.”
Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation struck a less sharp tone in a letter they sent to President Trump. In it they expressed their “profound disappointment” in his decision and urged him to “immediately work with Congress to pass clean legislation to protect Dreamers.”
“This repeal will impose severe harm, not only on the 800,000 DACA recipients nationally, but also the broader community,” the letter said. It was signed by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Democratic Reps. Rick Larsen, Pramila Jayapal, Derek Kilmer, Adam Smith, Denny Heck and DelBene.
Republican House members from Washington also issued statements calling for congressional action.
“I’ve long said I didn’t agree with the way the previous administration went about enacting DACA, but we must protect children who are already here in this country and those who are currently protected under DACA. That principle is fundamental for me,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.
“I’m committed to working with my colleagues in the House to establish common sense policies for children of immigrants, policies that recognize that many of these children came to our country at no fault of their own,” she said.
Herald Writers Rikki King and Jerry Cornfield contributed to this Associated Press report.