The King County Council responded Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that the DACA program will end by unanimously endorsing a motion calling on Congress to defend the program.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program established by the Obama administration in 2012, and provided protection from deportation and other benefits for children of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
Sessions announced Tuesday morning that the program would be eliminated, but gave Congress a six-month window to enact immigration changes, including passing Obama-era legislation that would provide protections similar to DACA.
“These 800,000 or so folks often represent the best of America,” county council member Rod Dembowski said of DACA residents.
The motion to support the program, as well as urging Congress to act to protect immigrants, was unanimously approved by the nine-member county council with nearly every member expressing concern or anger over the administration’s decision.
Council member Claudia Balducci said children who are part of DACA have oftentimes grown up just as American as their peers, they just lack a piece of paper.
“It’s frankly enraging,” she said. “I’m mad about this today.”
County Executive Dow Constantine also released a statement Tuesday morning condemning the president’s decision.
“This president is intentionally tearing families and communities apart across the United States, threatening innocent people who were brought to America as children,” he said in the release. “Rather than seeking to unite the country, he is targeting children and young people.”
An emergency rally in support of the program began at 2 p.m. Tuesday at El Centro De La Raza in Seattle.
Hundreds of people turned out in the courtyard beneath the smoke-filled sky and listened to speakers as ash from wildfires across the region rained down on them.
Washington state Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib addressed the crowd.
“As long as one person feels excluded in this state, we all feel excluded,” he said to applause.
Speakers ranging from individuals representing immigrant rights groups to student activists and union and tech representatives all took the stage to show support for DACA recipients.
Many speakers not only condemned the administration’s actions concerning the program, but also immigration raids and arrests. Some said there was an overall culture of hostility that the president was creating toward immigrant communities.
Aneelah Afzali, executive director of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound’s AMEN initiative, took to to the stage surrounded by faith leaders of all stripes.
“Living with the fear of family separation, community raids and deportations harms the mental and emotional well-being of the undocumented members of our human family,” she said in a statement also sent to the Reporter. “This goes against our faith teachings. It is morally, religiously, and socially wrong.”
Seattle City Council member Lorena Gonzalez, the daughter of formerly undocumented immigrants, addressed the crowd.
“We are, and will always be, a nation of immigrants,” she said. “…Undocumented youth and their families are part of our communities and they are here to stay.”
For those opposed to DACA, Gonzalez said their pushes to end it was political, while it is personal for those who rely on the program.
“I know, I have to believe that we will prevail because we are on the right side of history,” she said.
As the rally wrapped up, the crowd started chanting “si se puede,” a Spanish phrase, which roughly translates into “yes, it is possible.” The phrase was initially used by the United Farm Workers during actions in 1972 designed to increase worker’s rights and protections.
Since DACA was enacted, nearly 800,000 people have received protections under it by registering with the federal government. Speakers at the rally, as well as at the county council meeting, questioned the fairness of asking undocumented immigrants to register with the government only to have protections scrapped by the current administration.
Microsoft President Brad Smith issued a statement on Tuesday saying the company would work to defend the legal rights of Dreamers, or DACA recipients.
There are 39 Dreamers that work for Microsoft.
“If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees. If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel,” Smith said in the release.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump said he was looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to “address immigration reform in a way that puts hardworking citizens of our country 1st.”