Listen MPR's Doualy Xaykaothao: Hundreds protest end of "Dreamers" program
Sep 6, 2017
Listen MPR's Riham Feshir: What the DACA decision means for Minnesota
Sep 6, 2017
Updated: 6:48 p.m. | Posted: 4 p.m.
Key state leaders on Tuesday rose to the defense of more than 6,000 immigrants in Minnesota who stand to lose their protection from deportation.
President Trump's administration on Tuesday said it would wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which allows people brought illegally to the U.S. as children to stay in the country, work and get other benefits.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton was among those critical of the president's decision, saying it will directly hurt thousands of Minnesotans.
"Here in Minnesota we have a shortage of skilled workers. So we're going to take some 6,200 that are here under DACA and send them away?" Dayton said. "It's lunacy!"
• Tell MPR News: What do you think about the DACA program?
Early Tuesday evening, hundreds of people were rallying in downtown Minneapolis in protest of the president's decision.
"We are the original inhabitants of this land ... deport Donald Trump ... deport the colonizers," immigration attorney Susana De Léon said at a Minneapolis rally. The marchers wrapped up before 7 p.m.
Trump's announcement phases out DACA over the next six months, putting pressure on Congress to act on a new immigration law related to the program.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the program's end, said DACA was an "an unconstitutional exercise of authority" by the Obama administration.
Sessions' announcement comes on the deadline imposed by a group of attorneys general who threatened to sue the administration if it didn't rescind DACA.
• Earlier: Immigrants under DACA status wait and worry
People enrolled in DACA with work permits expiring between now and March 2018 could still apply to renew their two-year work authorization by October.
Both of Minnesota's DFL U.S. senators decried the decision.
"Ending DACA, which has been in place since 2012, would create tremendous uncertainty and risk deportation for DREAMers across the country," DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement.
Sen. Al Franken said on Twitter that the "decision to end #DACA is a disgrace" and that he'd "fight to protect #Dreamers in Minnesota and across our nation."
Kara Lynum, an immigration attorney in Minnesota, said there's bipartisan support for DACA.
"It's really easy to get behind for a lot of folks that may have other issues with other areas of our immigration law," she said. "So I would hope that there are a lot of Republicans coming out in favor of it and of course Democrats too."
Despite DACA's ending, Lynum said there is no need for its recipients — known as Dreamers — to go into hiding.
"I wouldn't do anything extreme today. There is a fix for this in Congress, there is a lot of discussions to be had on the advocacy side to get this fixed," she said. "There is no reason to do anything drastic today."
While preserving DACA protections enjoys the backing of many Democrats and Republicans, two of Minnesota's Republican U.S. House members said the program was an overreach by the Obama administration.
"President Obama's executive order skirted Congress' constitutional authority and made DACA untenable in its current form," Rep. Jason Lewis wrote on Facebook.
"This is an immensely complex issue and I fully support the opportunity for our nation's lawmakers to gather public input, hold committee hearings, and ultimately determine how best to reform our country's immigration system moving forward," Rep. Tom Emmer said in a statement.
While any new action regarding DACA will be done in Congress, there is a possibility that Minnesota lawmakers would enact a similar measure to the Minnesota Dream Act. The Minnesota Dream Act gives DACA recipients the ability to apply for financial aid to attend college.
One issue that could come up in the state Legislature is driver's licenses, said John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
"Can we be courageous and thoughtful and work within the existing rules to provide a way to keep driver's licenses for people who've had them and utilize them for both their family and their own benefit and the state," he said.
According to the Center for American Progress, ending DACA would cost Minnesota more than $367 million in annual GDP losses.
Keller called the program "life changing" as he shared additional data to support the economic benefits. He said 95 percent of DACA recipients are enrolled in school or are in the workforce.
"This is not only the right thing to do but it is in our economic self-interest to do this," he said.
Catalina Morales, an organizer with ISAIAH, the faith-based group advocating for immigrants in Minnesota, said this decision gives her the push to fight for something more permanent.
"I am not afraid of what's happening. I think it is time that this happened. I am blessed that DACA happened and I'm blessed that it gave me a voice, but it is also not good enough for our communities," she said. "Our communities want reform. I want my parents to have documents the way I've been able to succeed in my life."
Correction (Sept. 6, 2017) Immigration attorney Susana De Léon said "deport the colonizers" during the rally. An earlier version of this story reported her words as "deport the criminals."