Berenice Ramirez, University of Texas student and daughter of undocumented immigrants, fights back tears when she talks about the possibility of losing the program that has allowed her to go to school and work while pursuing her dream job of nursing.
“I’m in my junior year of college, I’m almost finished, but what if I can’t finish?” Ramirez said. “I’ve gotten this far. What if I’m not able to achieve my dream of graduating from college because someone doesn’t think that I’m worthy?”
On Tuesday, as President Donald Trump’s motorcade passed by on its way to the Texas Department of Public Safety operations center for the president to receive an update on Harvey response efforts, Ramirez was among dozens of protesters gathered to urge him not to rescind the immigration program for people like her.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, gives protection from deportation to thousands of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and allows them to work legally.
Protest organizer Matt Oliver, of the anti-Trump group Indivisible Austin, estimated about 150 to 200 people attended, and some brought donated items for Harvey evacuees. Oliver said he couldn’t remember a disaster in which people were afraid to seek help for fear of deportation.
“We’re here to point out that we’re not going to allow Trump to use this thing to hit an imaginary reset button on his failed presidency,” Oliver said. “To tease the possibility of rescinding DACA while he’s got … a humanitarian tragedy going on is inhumane.”
As Trump’s motorcade passed by, the crowd screamed, “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” and some booed or flashed unfriendly hand symbols while a handful of Trump supporters cheered gleefully and took photos. Protesters held signs that said, “Rebuild Houston, not a wall” and “Defend DACA.”
The protest came as Trump is expected to make a decision soon on the future of the program — while a Sept. 5 deadline from Republican state lawmakers looms.
In late June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and GOP officials from nine other states issued a letter threatening to sue the Trump administration unless it did away with DACA by then.
Trump has given mixed signals about his position on the program. During the presidential campaign, he criticized the program as unlawful and pledged to end it, but in April he seemed to recant by telling those in the program, known as dreamers, to “rest easy.”
Sprinkled between protesters on Guadalupe Street and Koenig Lane were some Trump supporters there to welcome the president and catch a glimpse of his motorcade. Among them was Ron Barkley and his family, who had just evacuated their Houston home and taken refuge with a son who lives in Austin.
“I’m just here to support the president and what he’s doing right now for our state,” Barkley said.
Seeing the president’s motorcade, he added, “Kind of takes your mind off of the other stuff back home.”