Santa Ana City Council Calls DACA Repeal “Appalling,” Will Urge Congress to Support DREAM Act

Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

The entrance at Santa Ana City Hall.

The Santa Ana City Council plans to “condemn” President Donald Trump’s move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and “urge” Congress to work on a bill that will protect young, undocumented immigrants.

“These are our friends, these are our family members, these are folks that we’ve grown up with, people that have gone to school with us and go to school with our children,” Councilman Vicente Sarmiento said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

A resolution to formalize the City Council’s opposition on the White House’s actions will be on the Sept. 19 meeting agenda.

The council action came as demonstrators also gathered in a Santa Ana park to protest the scheduled elimination of the six-year-old program. A crowd of over 100 protestors marched through downtown Santa Ana beginning at Sasscer Park, holding signs saying “Defend DACA” and “Undocumented, Unafraid.”

On Wednesday, according to CNN, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on congressional leaders to “immediately put the DREAM Act for a vote on the floor in the House and Senate.”

The New York Democrat said he is confident it will gain “overwhelming support” from both parties and threatened he was prepared to “attach it to other items this fall until it passes” if the legislation was not brought to a vote this month.

According to the New York Times, Schumer said Trump “seemed amenable” to working on the DREAM Act but also said “seeing is believing” when it came to cooperation between party lines.

The White House statement Tuesday ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin an “orderly transition and wind-down of DACA,” the program established in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.

Santa Ana council members responded hours later, calling the order “appalling” and “hypocritical” and voted to place a resolution on the next meeting’s agenda to “address and condemn” the action to suspend DACA and call on Congress to “act swiftly” to reconsider and pass the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, legislation originally introduced in 2001 providing a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants.

Obama’s executive order deferred the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the US at a young age. According to President Trump’s letter, approximately 800,00 illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 36 benefitted from the program and were able to receive work permits, social security numbers, and other federal benefits.

Councilman David Benavides during Tuesday’s meeting called for the condemnation of DACA’s repeal, urging Congress to reconsider the DREAM Act so young people may “come out of the shadows” and become active citizens.

Benavides praised Santa Ana’s diversity, saying the “richness” that is celebrated about the city is in “significant part” due to the “fact that we’re an immigrant community.” He said young people’s “future is being threatened by the current presidential administration.”

The city’s population is nearly 80 percent Latino, almost 50 percent foreign born and approximately 40 percent are younger than 18, according to the 2010 US Census data.

Councilmen Sarmiento and Sal Tinajero echoed Benavides’ words, voicing their disapproval of President Trump’s decision.

Tinajero said he was “shook” by the president’s decision, calling his decisions both hypocritical and cowardly, and asking the public employees’ and police officers’ unions to join “with one voice” to support DACA recipients. He criticized the president’s decision to send Attorney General Jeff Sessions to deliver the announcement without taking questions, saying the public should always have the opportunity to ask questions of those in authority.

Both Sarmiento and Tinajero disapproved of the president’s decision to rescind DACA because it was created through an executive order when he has also used executive powers to impose a travel ban at the beginning of his presidency. Sarmiento called the decision “appalling.”

President Trump’s order stops new applications for work permits and existing work permits will be honored until their expiration date, up to two years from Tuesday. Applications previously submitted will be processed, as well as renewals for those nearing the expiration of their terms. In his statement Tuesday, Trump wrote “Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months.”

The president said in his letter this “provides a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act,” placing the responsibility of immigration reform in the legislature’s hands.

“We must base future immigration on merit – we want those coming into the country to be able to support themselves financially, to contribute to our economy, and to love our country and the values it stands for,” he said in a statement.

“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion – but through the lawful Democratic process… We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans,” the president wrote.

Jose Ochoa is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at joseochoa.voc@gmail.com.