Immigrant rights activists and supporters gathered in Esther Short Park on Wednesday afternoon to rally against worries the White House will scrub a program that protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Diana Perez, Washington state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the roughly 60 people gathered that advocacy groups have been working on outreach programs to educate undocumented immigrants of their rights and organizing ways to respond should President Donald Trump move to end the DACA program.
The Obama-era program, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, grants young people who immigrated to the United States before they were 16 work permits and temporary permission to stay in the country, provided they meet eligibility requirements.
Undocumented immigrants and immigrant rights activists have been scrambling after conservative attorneys general in 10 states threatened to sue the government unless the Trump administration starts to dismantle the DACA program by Sept. 5.
More than 800,000 people, often called Dreamers, have participated in the program as of earlier this year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, with 17,000 of them from Washington.
“Since the administration changed we have been under constant threat, constant fear, constant anxiety, constant ‘what-if,’ and constant uncertainty,” Perez said, adding people need to start preparing mentally for a worst-case scenario, as families are already being split up after immigration arrests.
In a press call Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said ending the program is “an immoral affront.” He and nearly 1,900 state and local leaders have signed a petition to preserve the DACA program.
Before the gathered crowd began a short march around the park, Diana Avalos-Leos, vice president for youth for the Southwest Washington LULAC Council, told the group the young people in the program simply seek the chance for a better life.
“The American Dream has always been about chasing an opportunity and pursuing a brighter future for ourselves and our children,” she said.
“These Dreamers are students, are teachers, are doctors, are small-business professionals who are working, who are studying, who are raising families and who are chasing and pursuing and establishing the American Dream.”