CLEVELAND-- Bearing signs and lighting candles, hundreds rallied in Market Square Park in Ohio City to support undocumented immigrants whose futures are now in flux.
It comes after the Trump administration announced Tuesday that it is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
“This program has allowed us to work, allowed us to drive legally and we`re contributing and paying taxes,” said Jose Mendez, DACA recipient and Cleveland Director of DreamActivist Ohio.
Enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA temporarily protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. There are about 800,000 of these so-called Dreamers in the country.
“I go to college. I pay my taxes. I work. I fell in love here. I made a family here. And this is my country; I`m American,” said a DACA recipient who asked not to be identified because of safety reasons.
The freshman at Case Western Reserve University said her mother brought her to the U.S. from Honduras at the age of 1 to escape an abusive home.
“Many people have this misconception that people who are under DACA are criminals. And we`re not,” she said. “The only crime we`ve committed was coming to this country, that we didn`t even decide to come.”
President Donald Trump is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the program ends. Thursday, he tweeted “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No Action!”
Several DACA recipients who spoke during the vigil said the announcement leaves their lives in flux and anxious about their futures. They’re hoping that Congress can come up with a solution that will create a permanent pathway to citizenship so that they can stay in the United States.
“I don`t blame Democrats or Republicans,” Mendez said. “I think they have to come together.”
President Trump said in another Tweet this week he’s willing to revisit the issue if Congress doesn’t act to legalize DACA or pass the Dream Act. That act would eventually offer permanent residency to those who are eligible for DACA. Congress has not been able to pass that act since it was first introduced in 2001.