The Japanese American Citizens League joined NCAPA (National Council of Asian Pacific Americans) and several other Asian American organizations for a press conference on Thursday in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
President Trump has said that he will soon announce his decision on whether to eliminate the program, which was created by President Obama to protect undocumented immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. DACA has transformed the lives of about 800,000 young people, including over 16,700 Asian American immigrant youth.
JACL Executive Director David Inoue made the following statement: “As Americans, we all have an immigrant story. For Japanese Americans, we have our Issei. This usually refers to the Japanese who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. They came with dreams.
“They built homes, businesses, farms, a vibrant community, and, of course, families. Their children were born here, American citizens. Yet in spite of them doing what was expected, contributing to the community, to the economy, 75 years ago, they were ordered into concentration camps and incarcerated for nothing more than being Japanese and Japanese American — 120,000 people whose lives were uprooted and whose American dreams were crushed.
“We always say we need to learn from history. If so, why are we on the path today towards crushing the dreams of our DACA recipients? The immigrant story and their success is one that is so fundamental to the values of our country and today the Japanese American Citizens League is here to stand up for protecting the American dream for all of our DACA dreamers.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, released the following statement: “We are deeply concerned about the threat being faced by community members who have DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In the last five years, we have seen many young immigrants take advantage of the opportunities that DACA presents for them such as the ability to pursue higher education, financially provide for themselves and their family, drive and purchase a car, and, for some, even become homeowners. The DACA program has not only benefited these young people but our local and national economies as well. DACA is a common-sense policy and has been a successful program that has a firm legal basis.
“Asian immigrants make up 11 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and of those that are undocumented and eligible, 20 percent are protected through DACA.
“Ending such an impactful and meaningful program does not reflect who we are as a nation. In fact, eight out 10 voters want a more permanent solution for these young immigrants. President Trump should seriously consider who he listens to in this matter. He has said in the past that he believes our nation should embrace these immigrant youth; if he changes his mind now, he would be clearly caving to the influence of those who support a white supremacist agenda in seeking to close off all paths of immigration to predominantly Asian, Latino and African immigrants.
“We call on all of our elected officials to take action for DACA recipients and the immigrant community by supporting and protecting sound policies like DACA and TPS. Advancing Justice is committed in ensuring that all members of our community are protected and are treated with respect and dignity.”
“Repealing DACA would bring irreparable harm to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Vicki Shu, vice president of public affairs for OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates. “In the past, President Trump has expressed sympathy for DACA recipients and those eligible for DACA. We urge the president to continue to protect the DACA program. OCA remains committed to advocating for a pathway to citizenship. Until that happens, OCA will keep pushing the president to keep the program alive, and we will advocate for passage of the bipartisan-supported DREAM Act in Congress.”
Government Officials Speak Out
In Honolulu, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, and Clare Hanusz from the Hawaii Coalition for Civil Rights spoke out Wednesday on the importance of protecting DACA. Ten Republican state attorneys general have issued an ultimatum to Trump that they will take legal action if the administration does not end the DACA program by Sept. 5.
“Hundreds of thousands of DREAMers, including nearly 600 in Hawaii, have the opportunity to pursue education and careers in the only country they know as home through DACA,” said Hirono. “Ending DACA would be just the latest in the president’s attacks on immigrants, and I urge him to continue protections for DREAMers, as he previously said he would.”
“Here’s what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals means. If a child was brought into the U.S. before 16, action by the federal government to remove that child will be deferred,” said Chin. “That’s it. It’s compassionate and it’s practical. Rescinding DACA promotes uncertainty and that ultimately hurts instead of helps law enforcement. If the federal government won’t defend this policy, states will.”
“DACA recipients cannot be present with us today because people are scared — DACA is under threat,” said Hanusz. “This is an especially bad time to be targeting the DREAMers. We need to focus our efforts into the rebuilding our communities and not on deporting good people which will cause further economic and humanitarian strains on our already fragile system.”
Since its creation in 2012, the DACA program has helped to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to America as young children by giving them the chance to go to college, get a job, and live legally in the country that they’ve grown up in.
Hirono continues to advocate for DREAMers and preserving the DACA program. As the only immigrant currently serving in the U.S. Senate, she has been a leading advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship and is written with family unity as a guiding principle.
On Aug. 28 in Los Angeles, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held a roundtable at the Downtown UCLA Labor Center with eight DREAMers, who would benefit from a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Harris that would ensure permanent resident status to nearly a million young people. California is home to one-quarter of the nation’s total DACA population.
“California is home to the most DACA recipients in the country, and America is the only country they’ve known as home,” said Harris, a daughter of immigrants. “Thousands of DACA recipients have gone to college, served in the military, and opened small businesses – we must uphold the promise we made to these kids. I will fight to preserve the protections already given to them, and for comprehensive immigration reform because we need a long-term solution. We are a nation of immigrants and must resolve this issue on behalf of these young people.”
Other members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) expressed their concerns:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), a daughter of Chinese immigrants: “As chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I want to thank the coalition of DREAMers, faith leaders, and community leaders who have been standing outside of the White House – day and night, night and day – to defend DACA. I am here to support you and to join you in telling President Trump that our DREAMers are here to stay!
“Over the past five years, the DACA program has enabled nearly 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States as children to come out of the shadows. This includes many Asians and Pacific Islanders who have been able to go to school, attain work permits, and pursue their dreams. All of our DACA recipients have passed rigorous background checks to participate in the program. And they are American in every sense of the word except on paper.
“Unfortunately, President Trump has threatened to end the DACA program as we know it. But we will fight back. I want our DREAMers to know that there are members of Congress who support you and who will continue to fight to protect DACA and to fix our broken immigration system.
“We will not allow our immigrant communities to be trampled upon. I want our DACA recipients and our TPS recipients to know that we support you. Together, we will fight to protect our immigrant communities and ensure that America continues to remain the land of opportunity for all!”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), CAPAC whip, who was born in Taiwan: “Today, we’re fighting for the 1.7 million young immigrants, including the 130,000 who are AAPI, who are eligible for DACA protection. DREAMers grew up in our communities as our neighbors and friends. We have invested in them and they have given back so much to us. We’ll continue standing with DREAMers in spite of whatever actions the Trump Administration takes.”
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento), a son of Indian immigrants: “Children brought to the United States – through no fault of their own – deserve our compassion. These children have passed background checks and are already contributing to our economy as productive residents. Detaining and deporting children is not only morally wrong, it doesn’t make economic sense.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “DREAMers in Sacramento and across the country are working hard to pursue their American dream. Ending DACA would be devastating for the hundreds of thousands of families who are benefiting from the program and contributing to our nation’s progress. This vital program must be protected.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), who was born to immigrants from Taiwan: “We have all heard the news reports that the president intends to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Not only is this decision inhumane, it openly abandons American values and principles and would rip families apart. Thus far, DACA has enabled 800,000 DREAMers who came to the United States as children, through no decision of their own, to get an education, to get jobs, and to meaningfully contribute to the economy of the only country they have ever called home.
“A vast majority of Americans believe that these young people should be allowed to permanently remain in the United States. 87 percent of DACA recipients are employed, and estimates suggest that ending DACA would result in over 400 billion dollars in losses to the economy. But even more than this, ending DACA would strip away the opportunity for millions of Americans to achieve the American Dream while threatening to separate families. How can that possibly make America great?
“The answer: It doesn’t and it can’t. So today, we join together and demand that President Trump reverse course and protect DACA. Protect the DREAMers in this country who have been here their whole lives, who yearn to come out of the shadows, and who continue to show us what the American Dream truly means.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who was born in Vietnam: “DREAMers were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own by families who were simply seeking better lives. After many years of living in the shadows, these individuals were given the opportunity to live out their version of the American Dream through the DACA program. Many of them have gone on to pursue higher education and have become doctors, engineers, teachers, and other productive and talented members of our society.
“In the words of a DREAMer named Claudia Jimenez Contreras who is living, working, and attending the University of Central Florida in my district, DREAMers like her could be deported back to ‘a country [they]do not know, and the United States will lose out on thousands of young people who love this country, work hard, and want to stay here.’
“Sending these young Americans back to a country they do not know would be cruel and would deal a severe blow to the communities across the country that have embraced them as their own. I urge the administration to recognize the compelling stories of each of these individuals and to preserve the DACA program.”