Queens leaders are speaking out in the wake of President Trump’s signal to end a policy that protects undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.
Implemented in 2012, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allowed approximately 800,000 young undocumented immigrants the ability to work legally in the United States and remain in the country without the fear of immediate deportation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was tasked with making the announcement on Sept. 5 about the president’s decision.
Trump, who called the program an “amnesty-first approach,” said DACA will be phased out over the course of six months. Permits will remain active for “up to 24 months.”
Queens lawmakers sounded off soon after the announcement. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who represents areas of Woodhaven and Ridgewood, called the decision “a moral affront.”
“The president previously said that Dreamers have little reason to worry because he has a ‘big heart.’ Today’s decision belies that statement and makes clear the callous and hateful ideology that is driving this administration’s policies,” she said in a statement.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley said the program has strengthened New York City’s economy and neighborhoods, and called Trump’s actions “both heartless and senseless.”
Councilman and Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City and Sunnyside areas, said ending of the program will have “real and tragic effects for hundreds of thousands of good, hardworking people.”
“In western Queens and New York City, we must and will protect Dreamers. We reject this president and will fight his policies rooted in racism, hate and fear,” he said.
After calling the decision “brutal and incomprehensible,” state Senator Jose Peralta, who represents areas of Corona and Jackson Heights, said “it is time to help Dreamers, not attack them.”
“President Trump is punishing young people who came to the United States by no fault of their own. Let’s not forget that Dreamers have already been properly vetted through the system and have met the rigorous requirements placed on them, not only to initially qualify but to renew the program as well. Not only that, Dreamers are our everyday neighbors and future doctors, engineers, teachers, architects that will move this country forward and build on the foundation of those who came before them,” he said.
“It is extremely disappointing that Donald Trump has decided to end the DACA program, which has provided peace of mind to nearly 800,000 individuals who were brought here as children through no fault of their own,” said Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, who represents areas of Whitestone, Bayside and Little Neck. “Now these young dreamers will be forced to constantly worry about deportation and being torn apart from their families. I call on Congress to immediately restore DACA to ensure that these young Americans will be able to remain in the only country they call home.”
“With his decision to uproot and kick out Dreamers, this president is once again demonstrating an utter lack of sympathy and a failure to uphold American values,” Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues in Congress to pass legislation as soon as possible to restore those protections and grant a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. It’s now up to Congress to make clear that America is still a land of opportunity for all.”
The Department of Homeland Security will immediately stop accepting applications to the DACA program. If Congress fails to act, undocumented immigrants brought previously to the United States as children could face deportation as early as March 2018.