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Supporters of DREAMers worry Trump will immediately rescind Obama's immigration program for young illegal immigrants

SERGIO BUSTOS
RaeAnn Roca Pickett Phone: 202-621-1409 Email: raeann@latinainstitute.org

This article was originally posted on http://www.politico.com

MIAMI — With only a week remaining before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, immigrant advocates, union members and others are holding weekend rallies nationwide and in South Florida to call on him not to repeal President Barack Obama’s immigration program that allows hundreds of thousands of younger illegal immigrants to temporarily remain in the country.

Rally organizers worry that Trump will immediately rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often referred to by its acronym DACA. Obama created the program by executive order in 2012.

Trump, during the primary and presidential campaign, repeatedly vowed to kill DACA as one of his first actions as president. If he does nothing, immigration officials can continue granting and renewing permit. He gets sworn in as president next Friday.

Nationwide, more than 740,000 people have been approved for DACA, including more than 59,000 from Florida, according to the latest figures compiled by U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, which processes DACA applications.

If Trump shutters DACA, hundreds of thousands of so-called DREAMers who’ve spent most of their lives in the U.S. could be thrown out of work, with some losing the ability to pay for school.

At his confirmation hearing this week in Washington, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice to lead the Justice Department as attorney general, called Obama’s executive actions on immigration “very questionable in my opinion, constitutionally.” But he declined to spell out what specifically the Trump administration plans to do with DACA.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, appearing at a CNN Town Hall Thursday night, said lawmakers and the Trump transition team are working on “what’s a good, humane solution” for DACA recipients in response to a question from Angelica Villalobos, a young Oklahoma woman who was brought to the U.S. illegally from Mexico by her parents when she was 11 years old.

“I think we have to come up with a solution for the DACA kids,” he said. “So, what we have to do is figure out how to have a humane solution to this very legitimate, sincere problem and respect the rule of law.”

When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked if Ryan would protect DACA recipients like Villalobos from being deported given that the federal government knows her whereabouts from her DACA application, Ryan responded: “Everybody thinks that there's some deportation force that's being assembled. That's not happening.”

Tapper then reminded Ryan that “President-Elect Trump actually used the term deportation force” in his presidential campaign.

“That's not happening,” Ryan said.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice Education Fund, said Friday that Ryan and other GOP leaders “should clearly state that Republicans will keep DACA in place until legislation that replaces it is signed into law.”

“Empty promises from the Speaker will not protect Dreamers, nor do they change the fact that the Republican Congress and their President-elect are still on course to end DACA,” he said.

Added Sharry: “Republican Congress leaders will continue to hide behind the same excuse it has used for the last decade: ‘we have to secure the border first, before we can even consider doing something compassionate.’

With the clocking winding down on the Obama administration, organzers planned dozens of rallies nationwide as part of a “national day of action to prevent deportations.”

The South Florida rally is being held outside the Broward Transitional Center, a facility in Pompano Beach owned and managed by the Geo Group that contracts with the federal government to house undocumented immigrants.

The rallies across the country are being organized by United We Dream, which is partnering locally with the Service Employees International Union Florida, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Students Working for Equal Rights, IAmerica, We Belong Together, Aguapaneleando, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, For Our Future and DREAMers Moms. Those taking part in the rally will wear orange shirts emblazoned with their mantra: “Here To Stay.”

In advance of the rally, immigrant advocates and community leaders in Tampa held a news conference Friday morning to press Sen. Marco Rubio and other congressional members from Florida to protect immigrant families.

“The Trump administration has promised to make the immigrant community a cornerstone target of their legislative agenda,” said the Tampa group in a news release. They said he has appointed cabinet members and senior advisors “with a history of racism, threatening America’s status as an open and tolerant country welcoming to all immigrants.”

“Politicians need to know that their constituents will be watching and we will remember whether you protected our families and represented our communities or stood by,” said Michelle Prieto, Tampa area coordinator with Mi Familia Vota, a non-profit Hispanic advocacy group.

POLITICO reporters Seung Min Kim and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.