At least 100 protesters took to the streets of downtown Honolulu on Tuesday afternoon, part of nationwide rallies against President Donald Trump’s plan to rescind the Obama-era program that protects young immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined Trump’s decision to “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, saying the program is a “unilateral executive amnesty” by former President Barack Obama.
In response to the announcement, protesters gathered in cities across the country — including Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York and Washington, D.C.
In Honolulu, many protesters held up handmade signs with defiant messages, such as “Dump Trump Not DACA,” “No Attacks On Immigrants” and “United We Dream.”
Nearly 600 so-called “Dreamers” in Hawaii stand to lose their immigration status — if DACA is phased out in six months before Congress can pass legislation that protects them from deportation.
Across the country, roughly 790,000 immigrants have received temporary legal status under DACA.
Clare Hanusz, a Honolulu immigration attorney, pointed out that Trump’s decision affects more than Dreamers themselves.
“It’s important keep in mind that it’s not just Dreamers who are affected by this,” Hanusz said as she joined other protesters along Ala Wai Boulevard near the federal courthouse. “A lot of them are married with children, so we’re talking about much more than 800,000.”
Carolyn Hadfield, another protester, said Trump is motivating an increasing number of people to speak up against his anti-immigrant policies.
“This is the worst thing he could’ve done — to go after Dreamers. He doesn’t have a clue what this is going to unleash,” Hadfield said. “Look what’s on the streets today here and around the country. They shut down Pennsylvania Avenue. And 5th Avenue. And kids are walking out of high schools. People are waking up”
Hawaii Democratic Party Chair Tim Vandeveer said he wasn’t holding his breath for Congress to act swiftly.
“There’s no reason to have much faith in the current Congress. I think Congress has lacked a spine in dealing with immigration,” Vandeveer said. “The unfortunate side effect of a long period of inaction on immigration is this obscene, perverse type of ultimatum by Trump to force the hands (of Congress), and you know that Congress is still not prepared to act on it. And the victims will be Dreamers.”
Nandita Sharma, an organizer with Hawaii J20, a local group formed in response to Trump’s rise to power, said that the lack of action at the federal level highlights the importance of embracing the sanctuary movement.
“Today, we have 800,000 more reasons why (Hawaii) should be a sanctuary state,” Sharma said. “At the federal level, we’ve been shown over and over again for years now that they’re not willing to act to protect immigrant communities. At this point, if the City Council, the state Legislature and the governor refuse to act, it’s a willful refusal to acknowledge the level of danger that Trump is putting people in.”
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