Dozens took to Sen. Marco Rubio’s Miami office on Tuesday to call on the Republican senator to stop attacking the deferred action program that protects undocumented youth from deportation and allows them to work.
Rubio has said he wants to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Barack Obama enacted in 2012. The federal program provides temporary relief from deportation and work permits to undocumented youth who came to the United States as children.
Last month, Rubio called on the Obama administration to “wind down” the federal program, saying it is one of the main reasons why the U.S. has seen an influx of unaccompanied minors coming from Central America. He also said that those who are not currently benefiting from DACA “should not be eligible for it.”
‘Rubio’s attacks against Dreamers will not stand’
Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director for United We Dream and one of the organizers of Tuesday’s protest, said it is “irresponsible” for Rubio to make those comments about DACA. He also highlighted how the federal program has impacted the lives of so many Dreamers like him.
“DACA has provided me, and more than half million young immigrants, an opportunity to work and to end my fear of deportation, and Sen. Rubio’s attacks against Dreamers will not stand,” Sousa-Rodriguez said in a statement. “We’re here to remind the Senator of his immigrant roots, and it’s shameful that he continues bullying families like his.”
Since the federal government began accepting applications for DACA on Aug. 15, 2012, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers have applied and have been approved. A recent study by the Migration Policy Institute shows that a total of 587,366 undocumented young immigrants had been approved for DACA as of July 20 of this year.
Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon responded to Tuesday’s protest in a statement emailed to VOXXI. The statement read, in part:
“This crisis at the border is a reminder of what happens when we don’t enforce our laws, and unless we wind down enrollment in the President’s Deferred Action program for new applicants and reform the 2008 human trafficking law, more children will continue to be put in harm’s way and lured to cross the border with the false promise that they will be allowed to legally stay.”
Sammon added that Rubio has worked over the past year and a half to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. This includes efforts to find “solutions to address the plight of children brought here through no fault of their own.”
“The reality, however, is that meaningful immigration reform will not be possible until the American people have their confidence restored in the federal government’s ability to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws,” she said. “This is true now more than ever due to the ongoing crisis at the southern border.”
Rubio accused of flip-flopping
Tuesday’s protest outside Rubio’s office was organized by Dreamers and immigration advocates from United We Dream. Participants of the protest also said Rubio has flip-flopped on his support for Dreamers. They carried a large flip-flop that said, “Stop flip flopping on our community.”
They also created a meme showing a pair of flip-flops with two separate quotes from Rubio. On one flip-flop, Rubio is quoted as saying, “We should address the issue of these kids in a humanitarian way.” On another flip-flop, Rubio is quoted as saying, “It is our interest to wind down the DACA program.”
Diego Ramirez was among the dozens of Dreamers who participated in Tuesday’s protest. He spoke in front of Rubio’s office about how the DACA program impacted his life.
Ramirez said that as a high school student, he studied hard because he wanted to excel and “be someone in life.” But when his mother told him that his undocumented status would make it difficult for him to afford college, he was discouraged.
“But I came to life again when DACA was announced,” Ramirez said. “Thanks to DACA, I will be the first in my family to go to college.”
Ramirez’s experiences with DACA are similar to those of many of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented young immigrants who felt limited on what they could do before they were approved for the federal program.
Several national studies show that DACA helped Dreamers begin their first job or transfer to a new job after getting their work permit. Some Dreamers have also said DACA helped them return to school, while others have said they bought their first car and got their first credit card after being approved for DACA.