DACA decision adds to uncertainty for South Lake Tahoe Hispanic community
September 9, 2017
Tuesday's decision by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program sparked a range of responses, including legal action by California's attorney general.
For many members of the Hispanic community in South Lake Tahoe, the decision to "wind down" the program and punt the issue to Congress is just the latest seed sowed in a field of uncertainty that has expanded with the rise of Donald Trump, who staked much of his successful presidential campaign on a hardline position with regards to illegal immigration.
"Everyone we're in contact with regarding DACA is just scared, you know, [they] don't know what to expect because of all the political rhetoric," said Bill Martinez, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center, alluding to the decision by the president and the ensuing calls for congressional leadership to take up the matter.
While many facets of the immigration system have been polarized by ramped up political rhetoric, protections for those brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed their visas — a group known as "dreamers" — appear to have some bipartisan support.
“These are individuals who were brought here as children and this is the country they know and love because it’s their home.”Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, urged Congress to act "to preserve this program and reform and stabilize our nation's immigrant system."
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"These are individuals who were brought here as children and this is the country they know and love because it's their home," he said. "Many are now young adults who wear our nation's uniform in the armed forces or are teaching in our classrooms."
But as Martinez noted, it's unclear what a legislative fix might actually entail and that is adding to concerns in the community.
"The community is very concerned, especially the dreamers who are working in this country legally, who are attending school … and have been paying taxes and have student loans out … they're very concerned that they're not going to be able to continue their education and meet their full potential that the DACA program was allowing them to do … our community is very concerned about these negative implications," Martinez said.
As the Tribune previously reported, the election of President Trump fueled feelings of concern among some members of the local Hispanic community, regardless of their immigration status.
The president's swift action signing several executive orders days after being sworn in solidified that concern, which has remained constant since then, Martinez says.
"The anxiety remains steady because of the inaction of the president to put pen to paper to say 'yay' or 'nay' one way or another," Martinez said.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the DACA program will end in six months, in order to give Congress time to find a legislative solution for the immigrants. Sessions argues — as have some Republican lawmakers — that President Barack Obama's decision to implement DACA was an unconstitutional exercise of his authority.
In a tweet Thursday morning, the president sought to assure hundreds of thousands of immigrants protected from deportation under an Obama-era action that they need not worry about the wind-down of the program as Congress debates an alternative.
"For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!" Trump tweeted.
Closer to home here in Tahoe, others have issued statements and carried out actions in support of the DACA program and those it aimed to protect.
"Lake Tahoe Community College remains committed to serving all students, regardless of their backgrounds or immigration status," LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco said in a statement following the DACA decision. "We are committed to providing them with a safe learning environment. And, we will continue to protect the private information that all of our students provide in the college application and registration process."
"I have met many of our DACA students, and I know they are contributing members of our college and our community," DeFranco went on to say. "I want our DACA students to know that we stand with them and remain fully committed to helping them achieve their educational goals."
On Wednesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said he is going ahead with his own lawsuit because one in four participants in the DACA program lives in California and the state will suffer the greatest harm from its termination.
Becerra says he's been talking with fellow attorneys general for months about what to do if DACA is terminated and that the legal grounds of his case will be similar to the one filed Wednesday by 15 other states.
That lawsuit calls the move by Trump an unconstitutional culmination of his commitments to punish people with Mexican roots.
While actions and comments in support of the so called dreamers are reassuring, it's likely to do little in the way of allaying anxiety in the Hispanic population, Martinez said. That will come when definitive action is taken.
The following contributed to this report: Tribune Editor Ryan Hoffman; Geoff Dornan of the Nevada Appeal; and the Associated Press.