Sen. Mazie Hirono, flanked by Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin and Clare Hanusz of the Hawaii Coalition for Civil Rights, speaks on the importance of protecting DACA.
The Japanese American Citizens League joined NCAPA (National Council of Asian Pacific Americans) and several other Asian American organizations for a press conference on Thursday in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
President Trump has said that he will soon announce his decision on whether to eliminate the program, which was created by President Obama to protect undocumented immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. DACA has transformed the lives of about 800,000 young people, including over 16,700 Asian American immigrant youth.
JACL Executive Director David Inoue made the following statement: “As Americans, we all have an immigrant story. For Japanese Americans, we have our Issei. This usually refers to the Japanese who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. They came with dreams.
“They built homes, businesses, farms, a vibrant community, and, of course, families. Their children were born here, American citizens. Yet in spite of them doing what was expected, contributing to the community, to the economy, 75 years ago, they were ordered into concentration camps and incarcerated for nothing more than being Japanese and Japanese American — 120,000 people whose lives were uprooted and whose American dreams were crushed.
“We always say we need to learn from history. If so, why are we on the path today towards crushing the dreams of our DACA recipients? The immigrant story and their success is one that is so fundamental to the values of our country and today the Japanese American Citizens League is here to stand up for protecting the American dream for all of our DACA dreamers.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, released the following statement: “We are deeply concerned about the threat being faced by community members who have DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In the last five years, we have seen many young immigrants take advantage of the opportunities that DACA presents for them such as the ability to pursue higher education, financially provide for themselves and their family, drive and purchase a car, and, for some, even become homeowners. The DACA program has not only benefited these young people but our local and national economies as well. DACA is a common-sense policy and has been a successful program that has a firm legal basis.
“Asian immigrants make up 11 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and of those that are undocumented and eligible, 20 percent are protected through DACA.
“Ending such an impactful and meaningful program does not reflect who we are as a nation. In fact, eight out 10 voters want a more permanent solution for these young immigrants. President Trump should seriously consider who he listens to in this matter. He has said in the past that he believes our nation should embrace these immigrant youth; if he changes his mind now, he would be clearly caving to the influence of those who support a white supremacist agenda in seeking to close off all paths of immigration to predominantly Asian, Latino and African immigrants.
“We call on all of our elected officials to take action for DACA recipients and the immigrant community by supporting and protecting sound policies like DACA and TPS. Advancing Justice is committed in ensuring that all members of our community are protected and are treated with respect and dignity.”
“Repealing DACA would bring irreparable harm to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Vicki Shu, vice president of public affairs for OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates. “In the past, President Trump has expressed sympathy for DACA recipients and those eligible for DACA. We urge the president to continue to protect the DACA program. OCA remains committed to advocating for a pathway to citizenship. Until that happens, OCA will keep pushing the president to keep the program alive, and we will advocate for passage of the bipartisan-supported DREAM Act in Congress.”
Government Officials Speak Out
In Honolulu, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, and Clare Hanusz from the Hawaii Coalition for Civil Rights spoke out Wednesday on the importance of protecting DACA. Ten Republican state attorneys general have issued an ultimatum to Trump that they will take legal action if the administration does not end the DACA program by Sept. 5.
“Hundreds of thousands of DREAMers, including nearly 600 in Hawaii, have the opportunity to pursue education and careers in the only country they know as home through DACA,” said Hirono. “Ending DACA would be just the latest in the president’s attacks on immigrants, and I urge him to continue protections for DREAMers, as he previously said he would.”
“Here’s what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals means. If a child was brought into the U.S. before 16, action by the federal government to remove that child will be deferred,” said Chin. “That’s it. It’s compassionate and it’s practical. Rescinding DACA promotes uncertainty and that ultimately hurts instead of helps law enforcement. If the federal government won’t defend this policy, states will.”
“DACA recipients cannot be present with us today because people are scared — DACA is under threat,” said Hanusz. “This is an especially bad time to be targeting the DREAMers. We need to focus our efforts into the rebuilding our communities and not on deporting good people which will cause further economic and humanitarian strains on our already fragile system.”
Since its creation in 2012, the DACA program has helped to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to America as young children by giving them the chance to go to college, get a job, and live legally in the country that they’ve grown up in.
Hirono continues to advocate for DREAMers and preserving the DACA program. As the only immigrant currently serving in the U.S. Senate, she has been a leading advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship and is written with family unity as a guiding principle.
On Aug. 28 in Los Angeles, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held a roundtable at the Downtown UCLA Labor Center with eight DREAMers, who would benefit from a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Harris that would ensure permanent resident status to nearly a million young people. California is home to one-quarter of the nation’s total DACA population.
“California is home to the most DACA recipients in the country, and America is the only country they’ve known as home,” said Harris, a daughter of immigrants. “Thousands of DACA recipients have gone to college, served in the military, and opened small businesses – we must uphold the promise we made to these kids. I will fight to preserve the protections already given to them, and for comprehensive immigration reform because we need a long-term solution. We are a nation of immigrants and must resolve this issue on behalf of these young people.”
Other members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) expressed their concerns:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), a daughter of Chinese immigrants: “As chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I want to thank the coalition of DREAMers, faith leaders, and community leaders who have been standing outside of the White House – day and night, night and day – to defend DACA. I am here to support you and to join you in telling President Trump that our DREAMers are here to stay!