President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise and threw 800,000 American residents' legal status into doubt Tuesday morning by declaring an end to deportation amnesty for young people brought into the country as children.
By Tuesday afternoon, about 1,000 people had gathered in front of the Minnesota Republican Party headquarters in Seward, where earlier in the day, MN GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan echoed Trump's portrayal of ending DACA as both humane and lawful.
Enacted through executive order by President Barack Obama five years ago, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program outfits recipients, known as DREAMers, with Social Security numbers, driver's licenses, and permits to work in return for their personal information and fingerprints.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken quickly come out in defense of the roughly 6,000 DREAMers in Minnesota, calling Trump's order "heartless" and "cruel."
Those who are currently enrolled in the program have until October 5 to renew their status for another two-year period. The many more undocumented children who have yet to obtain recognition will no longer be able to apply. And should Congress fail to conjure permanent, protective legislation in the next six months, they could be arrested and deported to countries they've never known.
Trump's order does not lay out what will happen to people who abandoned other visa applications in favor of DACA.
Nelima Sitati of Brooklyn Park, whose family originates from Kenya, has DREAMer nephews. She said that rather than wait a decade in legal limbo for a family member's petition to go through, many young African immigrants transitioned to DACA so they could go to school, work, and get mortgages.
"There was that expectation that the DREAM Act will pass and DACA would be faster," she said. "Now that they're getting rid of DACA, what does that mean?"
Immigration lawyers are warning undocumented immigrants not to apply for DACA if they haven't done so already, and avoid any contact with law enforcement, which would catch the attention of immigration authorities.
"I've been getting phone calls all day about how safe it is to even come out [and protest]," said Sebastian Rivera, who says his best friend is a DACA recipient.
"Everybody is extremely nervous and afraid, for good reason. DACA also puts the families of DACA recipients in a precarious situation because the government knows who they are. That's 800,000 families that are in danger. It's a terrifying thought to think we might all be deported."
Nevertheless, a 1,000-heavy block of protesters marched across downtown Minneapolis, combined with another group of protesters in front of the federal courthouse, and crowded the entrance to the Hennepin County Jail. There, they chanted denunciations of Sheriff Rich Stanek, who arranges for detainees to be interviewed by Immigration agents.
The protest lasted about an hour, and ended peacefully with no arrests.
Activist Antonia Alvarez, mother of three DACA recipients in their 20s, said she was not particularly concerned with avoiding arrest.
Anticipating that DACA would come to an end since the moment Trump took office, and unimpressed with Congress' chances of passing legislation for DREAMers in six months if the same could not be done in the past five years, she said she told her children on Tuesday to "resist" rather than to be careful.
"The kids are good kids. They support this economy, but this government is creating a lot of hate and division," she said. "We crossed the border. We demonstrated that we are people who are worthwhile in this country. Now we're going to fight together."
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