For the past two weeks, Vanessa Rodriguez had been trying to mentally prepare for the end of the federal program that protects young immigrants who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children — including herself — from deportation and allows them to work legally in the country.
Still, the 19-year-old aspiring lawyer said, Tuesday’s news that the Trump administration was officially winding it down stung.
But Rodriguez, a University of Texas student and member of University Leadership Initiative, a local immigrant advocacy group, said she was determined and hopeful at a news conference hosted by the group Tuesday.
“This is the place I call home,” Rodriguez said. “I am not going anywhere. I am going to fight for my future just as much as my parents fought for my life.”
President Donald Trump said he is giving Congress six months to act before ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. The Obama-era program has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. protection from deportation and work permits.
Edilsa Lopez, a recent University of Texas graduate, financial analyst and DACA status recipient, paused to fight back tears as she told her story at Tuesday’s press conference.
Lopez said she was 12 years old when she was separated from her family during their journey to the U.S. from Guatemala, where her mother was a victim of domestic violence and her family faced extreme poverty and hunger.
Lopez was kidnapped and held captive for about a year until a woman helped her escape to Houston, she said. There she was able to begin again, graduated high school in the top 10 percent of her class and earned scholarships to attend UT.
“As (with) many of my friends, I am absolutely devastated by the decision made today because it will affect many of our lives,” Lopez said. “This is how we provide for our families; this is how we provide for ourselves every day.”
Lopez, as well as many local Democratic officials and immigration advocates, called for a congressional solution on Tuesday.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a statement criticized Trump’s timing, as Texas is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey’s devastation.
“It would be shameful to deport children from the only home they’ve known, especially as Mexico leaps to assist with the Harvey relief effort and our city proudly offers shelter to all who need it,” Adler said. “DACA was our country at its best. Congress must act now.”
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt also pushed for Congress to take quick action.
“My heart goes out to our dreamers, whose dreams have been deferred yet again,” Eckhardt said in a statement. “Please join me in asking our members of Congress to act swiftly for a legislative solution restoring this compassionate program.”
Meanwhile, the decision was lauded by state and local Republican officials and political groups calling for immigration reform.
Travis County Republican Party Chairman Matt Mackowiak said President Barack Obama dealt Trump a difficult set of cards by implementing the program by executive action, rather than through Congress, putting the program on shaky legal ground.
Mackowiak said he understood and agreed with Trump’s decision as a legal one.
“I think a lot of us (Republicans) have compassion for those individuals that came here as children through no fault of their own and are now in limbo,” he said. “It’s important to recognize that they’re in limbo because (of) President Obama.”
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, applauded Trump’s decision to “deliver on his promise.”
“By ending the unconstitutional DACA program, (Trump) has overturned the last of the Obama Administration’s amnesty agenda and returned to the rule of law,” Smith said. “President Trump is right not to continue the DACA program and to force Congress to address immigration policies, including securing the border.”