In reaction to the announcement that President Trump is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA recipients and immigration activists in Wichita are now calling on Congress to pass permanent legislation to protect young adults brought to the U.S. as kids.
Dozens of people gathered on the steps of the Sedgwick County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon in response to the morning's announcement; many shared their stories of being DACA recipients, and what the morning's announcement meant for them.
Carolina Hernandez, immigrant justice organizer for Sunflower Community Action in Wichita, called the news--that as many as 800,000 young adults would lose the protection they had under DACA--a "wake-up call."
“We were, you know pretty comfortable, for these past few years, since 2012," she said after the rally. "Even myself, I was too.”
Hernandez is originally from Mexico and enrolled in DACA in 2012, when she was 16. Even then, she knew it was a temporary program. When her permit expires in 2019, she won’t be able to re-apply.
She said what worries her most is the possibility of being separated from her 11-month-old daughter. She told the crowd that it's time for Congress--which has a March 5 deadline--to pass permanent legislation.
"We might not know what our future looks like in six months, but we know we have an opportunity to push Congress and pass the DREAM Act," she said.
Members of Kansas' congressional delegation had mixed responses to Trump's announcement.
Congressman Ron Estes of Kansas’ 4th District, which covers south-central Kansas, applauded the president for giving Congress time to fix the immigration system and secure the nation’s borders without providing amnesty.
Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall said that President Obama’s 2012 order creating the DACA program may not have been constitutional.
“But that’s not my fault. It’s not these kids’ fault. I have to deal with the situation today – that we have 15,000 DACA kids in Kansas, and that immigration is a top issue in southwest Kansas," he said. "So I need to deal with the problem at hand. We need to do the right thing.”
Rep. Kevin Yoder said in a statement posted to his Facebook page that although he doesn't support deporting Dreamers, "President Obama’s DACA order was an unconstitutional abuse of executive authority."
"The President [Trump] has given Congress a six-month window to act on immigration reform, and that's exactly what we should do," Yoder wrote. "We must secure our borders, repair our broken visa program, and provide needed reforms and certainty and stability for minors. We must pursue policies that are both compassionate and restore the rule of law in our country."
Kansas was one of 26 states that had sued over DACA, charging that Obama did not have the authority to create the program by executive order.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a Tuesday statement that he would now ask for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
“The Trump administration’s actions today return the issue to the only place constitutionally empowered to resolve it: The United States Congress,” he said.
“The obvious reality is our country is not going to round up and deport 800,000 people who in the past were brought here as children, grew up here, have committed no crimes, and now have relied in good faith on the Obama administration’s false but enticing promises,” Schmidt said. “Congress needs to enact immigration law that humanely and responsibly fixes this problem once and for all.”
Wichita State University President John Bardo released a statement Tuesday saying he would reach out to members of Congress "to offer my support for a reasoned and swift solution that will allow DACA students to remain at Wichita State University until graduation and pursue their lives and careers in Kansas, free from the fear of deportation."
The ACLU of Kansas says there are an estimated 6,083 residents who are protected under DACA.
Bryan Thompson of the Kansas News Service also reported for this story.