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Protesters hit Houston streets after President Trump ends DACA

By CNN , Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter Posted: 9:26 AM, September 05, 2017 Updated: 8:24 PM, September 05, 2017

WASHINGTON - Local civil rights and advocacy groups marched through downtown Houston from Market Square to City Hall to voice their support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Trump administration on Tuesday formally announced the end of DACA -- a program that had protected from deportation nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and has formally rescinded the Obama administration policy.

"I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday at a Justice Department news conference.

But the agency also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, giving Congress time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the U.S. Those with permits that expire by March 5 have until Oct. 5, one month from the date of the announcement, to apply for renewal. In the five years since DACA started, the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received the protections have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and universities across the United States.

Several DACA recipients met at Houston's FIEL headquarters Tuesday. Francisco Jimenez, 23, graduated from St. Thomas with a degree in biochemistry. Jimenez dreams of becoming a doctor.

"I would give my life for this country," said Jimenez. "I grew up in this country. This country has given me its values. This country has given me an education. This country has given me everything that I believed in."

FIEL members reached out to neighbors at local apartments affected by the flood, also showing them their rights and explaining the DACA announcement. Other local groups also voiced their opinions.

"The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce -- and those you see, and those you do not see -- will fight this fight every day until we find a legislative solution," said Dr. Laura Murillo, CEO of the Houston Chamber.

Murillo stood at the Chamber Tuesday alongside Mayor Sylvester Turner; Dayan Gross, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League; Charles Foster, chair of the Greater Houston Partnership Immigration Task Force; and Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza with the Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston, along with City Council members, the Houston Fire Department, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, among others.

"I'm strongly urging the members of Congress now to do the right thing -- which the president did not do," said Archbishop Emeritus Fiorenza.

The Chamber reached out to those who are unsure of what to do.

"If you are a DACA student, we want you to know we are on your side. We are looking out for your rights. We ask that you follow us on social media and know what your rights are. We talked to attorneys who have indicated they are impacted by this, if they know that their permits expire, they need to be looking for legal recourse through Catholic Charities, through immigrant centers, through immigration attorneys," said Dr. Murillo.

Mayor Turner said at the news conference that he believes Congress will act and act quickly in the six months it has to save the program or mitigate its impact on students and families.

"To the extent they don't, it's not DACA students that will lose. It will be all of us. The United States will be less. The state of Texas will be less. The city of Houston will be less," said Turner.

The business community and education community at large has joined Democrats and many moderate Republicans in supporting the program, citing the contributions to society from the population and the sympathetic fact that many of the young people have never known any home other than the U.S.

"I voted for Trump, and I'd likely vote for him again, but what he's doing now...it's like the Notre Dame coach saying, 'I don't want the good guys to be playing today,'" said former Texas GOP chair George Strake, who served from 1983-1988. "This is such a critical time for the city. We're sitting here in 2-6 feet of water in our homes. We need all the help we can get."

The Trump administration pitched the move as the "least disruptive" option available after facing a threat from 10 conservative state attorneys general to challenge the program in court, according to senior administration officials briefing reporters on the move.

Sessions had determined that the program would not be likely to withstand that court challenge, the administration said. The move sets a clock for Congress to act to preserve the program's protections before the DACA recipients begin losing their status March 5, 2018.

No one's DACA status will be revoked before it expires, administration officials said, and any applications already received by Tuesday will be processed. Anyone whose status expires by March 5 has one month to apply for a new two-year permit, and those applications will be processed.

If Congress were not to act, and DACA begins to expire, nearly 300,000 people could begin to lose their status in 2018, and more than 320,000 would lose their status from January to August 2019. More than 200,000 recipients have their DACA expiring in the window that DHS will allow renewal.

Deportations?

Speaking with reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity, a DHS official did not rule out that anyone with expired DACA status would then be subject to deportation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they will continue to prioritize deportation of people with criminal records, people who re-enter the U.S. illegally and those with final orders of removal.

But officials said there will be no formal guidance that former DACA recipients are not eligible for deportation, and ICE officers in the field who encounter them will be making a case-by-case judgment as to whether to arrest that individual and process them for deportation.

The administration insisted its approach was designed to offer some security to DACA recipients, emphasizing that if it had allowed the courts to decide the issue, that would have been risking an immediate and abrupt end to DACA at the hands of a judge.

But it also was made clear that once DACA begins to expire, if Congress doesn't act, then people formerly protected "would be like any other person who's in the country illegally," according to a senior DHS official.

"To be clear, what ICE is doing now is what Congress intended. We're actually enforcing the law the way it is written," said a senior ICE official. "(This is) the first president who's asked us to enforce the law the way it is written and not asked us to have some executive interpretation of the law."

The officials placed the onus on Congress to make any changes to the system.

Still, local DACA recipients are hoping Congress makes changes and makes them quickly.

"You can take away my documents but you can't take away my education. You can't take away my hope and you can't take away my faith," said Hilario Yanez.