On DACA’s 5th Anniversary, CA Immigrants’ Rights Advocates Press On

More than 800,000 people have benefited from the DACA program since its inception in 2012. Photo Credit: avidcreative/iStockphoto

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SAN FRANCISCO – Immigrants’ rights advocates are speaking out as the fifth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA passed on August 15th.

California is home to more than 220,000 people who were brought to the U.S. as children and gained the right to work here when President Obama signed an executive order in 2012. President Trump promised on the campaign trail to show great heart with regards to the so-called “dreamers.”

But Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, points out that his new chief of staff – former Homeland Security chief General John Kelly – wouldn’t vow to protect them during his confirmation hearing.

“We pressed then-Secretary Kelly, asking him to make a commitment to keep America’s promise to these young people, that we would not share their information with ICE, which would lead to their deportation,” she says. “And he refused to do so.”

Trump did sign an extension of DACA in June. But nine states’ attorneys general are threatening to sue if Trump doesn’t rescind the program. Attorney General Jeff Sessions – a hard-liner on immigration – has not said whether the Justice Department will fight to keep DACA.

Harris co-sponsored the DREAM Act to permanently reauthorize the program and says she supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Felipe Salazar’s parents brought him to the U.S. from Colombia when he was ten. He has since earned a master’s in computer engineering – and says he was able to find a job at a high-tech firm in San Francisco – thanks to DACA.

“Since then, my life has changed in a multitude of ways,” he says. “I can drive and I can work. I can support myself and my family. And I have been able to contribute to society to the fullest extent of my skills.”

There are 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. Harris estimates that removing those people from the workforce would cost California $11 billion in annual GDP and cost the country $433 billion over the next ten years.