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Hundreds Protest End of DACA

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Gerardo Gomez, left, a gay man and DACA Dream Fellow at Pangea Legal Services SF, addressed a crowd of 100 in Oakland August 31 days before President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program
Gerardo Gomez, left, a gay man and DACA Dream Fellow at Pangea Legal Services SF, addressed a crowd of 100 in Oakland August 31 days before President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program  (Source:Jane Philomen Cleland)

Reaction was swift from elected officials and community members after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced President Donald Trump's decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that had been implemented by President Barack Obama in June 2012.

A hastily arranged protest outside the San Francisco Federal Building Tuesday brought out hundreds of people, many of whom carried signs with slogans such as "Your racism is not patriotism," "Hate doesn't make America great," and "San Francisco was built by immigrants." Members of the UNITE HERE union sang the civil rights-era anthem "We Shall Overcome."

"The president is challenging and rescinding human rights," Adam Mehis, a gay man who's executive director of the San Francisco Democratic Party, told the Bay Area Reporter. "It's important to activate the Democratic base and show that we will not back down."

DACA protects undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation. There are currently about 800,000 people in the program. Trump and Sessions both claimed that Obama overstepped his authority and that it's Congress, not the president, that should be enacting laws.

After a day of angry protests and criticism, Trump tweeted that he would revisit DACA in six months if Congress fails to act on the matter. As it stands, those who are already enrolled can continue working or going to school until their permit expires; new applicants are not being accepted. Some renewals are also being processed until early October.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) issued a blistering statement against Trump's decision.

"Just when President Trump can't seem to go any lower, he one-ups himself by going after immigrant children," Wiener said in a statement. "Ending DACA is a disaster that will only serve to tear families apart and stoke fear and distrust in our immigrant communities. California will continue to be strong in supporting our immigrant neighbors."

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center For Lesbian Rights, called the move "chilling."

"For the 11 percent of DACA recipients who identify as LGBT, today's announcement is chilling," Kendell said. "In an announcement that lasted only minutes, this administration just turned the lives of tens of thousands of our community members upside down, putting their dreams, their futures, and potentially their safety at risk. We join with the millions of others who pledge to do all in our power to resist this brutally vicious and depraved directive and to stand with these young people."

Initially, the San Francisco rally was small, but as more people showed up, the protest moved out into the street, blocking traffic on both Seventh and Mission streets. Numerous police officers were present, but there was no animosity between the officers and the protesters.

There were no formal speakers, though some protesters carried bullhorns and made impromptu speeches from the sidewalk.

Xochitl Johnson, a 43-year-old queer African-American who is part of Refuse Fascism, led many demonstrators in a chant accusing Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of fascism. "I'm here to stand with the Dreamers being targeted by Trump and Pence's cruel attack," Johnson said as the crowd applauded. "As a black person I can attest to the ugly and blood-soaked history this country has of ripping families apart and terrorizing and crushing dissent. There's a reason they defend the statues of slave owners and Confederate flags - it's because this is the America they want."

Others blamed Republicans' dislike of Obama.

"The only reason Congress doesn't pass DACA is to prevent President Obama from having a positive legacy," said Curtis Jensen, a 51-year-old gay man.

DACA recipients also spoke out.

"We just want to stay here," said Alejandra De Lavega, a 29-year-old transgender woman from Costa Rica who is a member of the DACA program. "All my family is here. I've been here since age 8 - for me to go back is going to a new country. I had no choice in coming here."

Governor Jerry Brown called ending DACA "senseless and cruel" and said he would fight to restore it.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee expressed his support for DACA in a statement.

"This country needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform," the mayor said. "Until we do that, political decisions like these will continue to divide our communities and tear families apart. San Francisco will always remain a sanctuary city - a beacon of hope and a place where we embrace all our residents, regardless of their immigration status. We will continue to protect, respect and stand together with our immigrant families."


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