Reaction to Tuesday’s completely unsurprising announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program received reactions from Orange County Members of Congress and announced candidates that pretty much split along partisan lines.
With one notable exception.
“The status of eligible DACA recipients should not change from one administration to the next,” says Rep. Ed Royce (R-Brea) in a statement that was actually released on Labor Day—or the day before Sessions’ announcement but after reports came out over the weekend that Donald Trump would scrap DACA.
“Congress should act now to provide a permanent, legislative solution that gives certainty to these kids,” continued Royce. “We should not deny residence to children who have only known America as their home, positively contributed to this great country, and passed a background check.”
However, Royce “has voted again and again against children who know only this country,” counters Dr. Mai-Khanh Tran, a pediatrician who previously announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for the congressman’s 39th district seat in 2018 due to his support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“He has opposed the DREAM Act and has voted in the past to defund DACA,” Tran continued of Royce. “It is now time for him to finally do the right thing by not just issuing empty statements, but by actually sponsoring a clean bill that simply makes DACA the law of the land.”
Tran, who was a Vietnamese refugee at age 9 when she was carried off a plane by a U.S. Marine, accused the Trump administration of having “chosen to promote hate and fear by announcing they will end DACA.” The 51-year-old Fountain Valley resident added, “As an immigrant myself, this fight is personal for me. I am saddened by the Trump administration’s decision, but I am also encouraged by the willingness of our community to speak up.”
Gil Cisneros, a former decorated U.S. Naval officer and Democrat who has also announced he is seeking Royce’s seat, also pointed to the Republican having “previously voted multiple times to defund the DACA program and send hundreds of thousands of innocent people back into the shadows.”
“Congressman Royce and President Trump have made no effort to fix our broken immigration system,” added Cisneros, who parlayed a fortune won from the California lottery in 2010 into creating with his wife The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation that aims to improve Hispanic education in the country.
“There are thousands of DREAMers in our community who have only known one home, the United States,” said Cisneros. “They are productive members of our community and they are our friends, family and neighbors. Denying these kids the opportunity to succeed not only has a negative impact on our economy, it is just wrong.”
On Labor Day, the Orange County Register published an opinion piece by Cisneros that began: “Right now, hundreds of thousands of residents are on the edge of losing their jobs. These neighbors are not in danger of being fired because of poor job performance. They are not worried about being laid off because their employers are downsizing. They are on the edge of being fired by Donald Trump as he considers destroying the DACA program.” He called on everyone to, “Tell Congress and Trump to protect DACA and pass real immigration reform.”
Andy Thorburn, a former classroom teacher, workers’ rights advocate, businessman and another Democratic candidate for Royce’s seat, marked the Trump administration’s DACA decision by trumpeting his video titled “Inclusive Society.”
Unveiled hours before Sessions’ announcement, the ad is narrated by Thorburn, who says he believes in an America that is built upon “diversity, inclusiveness and opportunity,” and which brings compassion to refugees along with a pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
Here is the video:
Thorburn boasts of being “the most well-funded Democrat taking on a sitting GOP House member nationwide,” with a $2 million war chest.
That prospect could have Republicans shaking in their loafers as much as the sight of 200 marching DACA supporters, who arrived from San Marco Park to the Irvine office of Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters Tuesday.
“We demand that Mimi Walters co-sponsors legislation to help our DACA community,” Rex Wang, an organizer with the Korean Resource Center, told a cheering crowd of demonstrators who held signs with messages such as “Diversity is our Strength” and Save the American Dream, Save DACA.”
The spectacle prompted Walters’ office to release this statement from the congresswoman: “The Constitution mandates that Congress, not the President, write the laws. DACA, while well intentioned, was an unconstitutional abuse of executive power. Our nation and our government cannot function unless we uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.”
She continues, “It is now up to Congress to develop a permanent legislative solution to provide certainty to the young people who were brought to America as children without the proper documents through no fault of their own. America is the only home most of these young people have ever known and it is unjust to punish them for the actions of their parents. Congress should work to ensure their residency so that they can continue to contribute to our community and strengthen our nation.”
Among those who cheered the rally outside Walters’ office was Dave Min, a Harvard-educated UC Irvine law professor seeking the Democratic nomination for her 45th district seat:
Min, who is Korean-American, wrote in a separate tweet that “Walters’ claim that #DACA is an ‘unconstitutional abuse of executive power’ is nonsensical.”
Another Harvard-educated UC Irvine law professor seeking the Democratic nod for Walters’ seat, Elizabeth Warren protege Katie Porter, strung together three DACA-related tweets:
In a statement released by his office, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) did not blame Trump for the current mess but the president’s predecessor.
“President Obama created a legal headache and a public heartache by stepping far beyond his constitutional authority to protect the so-called ‘Dreamers’–those who were brought at a tender age to this country by parents who brazenly defied our immigration law,” states Rohrabacher.
“However much we may sympathize with the hundreds of thousands of these children, many of whom have reached adulthood and have become ‘Americanized,’ we in Congress must work to prevent such cynical loopholes from being created again by executive fiat. Those loopholes, make no mistake, incentivized the dangerous journeys of these families across our border.
“Let’s be clear: Legalizing their status sent a message throughout the world that our doors were open to share all the benefits accorded American citizens. Many of those benefits came at the expense of already strapped taxpayers. These immigrants were good people who responded to a green light to enter our country. What they found, in too many cases, was a legal mishmash, the law mocked.
“I applaud President Trump and Attorney General Sessions as they restore rigorous constitutional standards to the vexing issue of illegal immigration. As the president suggested, it is now up to Congress, and we must face the issue squarely and fearlessly.”
Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem cell researcher seeking the Democratic nomination for Rohrabacher’s 48th congressional district seat, did not mention the presumed Republican nominee nor Trump in his DACA statement.
“I came to the United States with limited means and was able to make a life for my family and myself because this country provided me with the same opportunity that has been given to so many DACA participants,” Keirstead says.
“Here in California, DACA has allowed almost 223,000 hard-working young people to step forward and achieve the American dream for themselves and their families, all the while contributing $11.6 billion annually to California’s economy.
“Our immigration system is broken and needs reform, but breaking up families and deporting young people who have done nothing wrong goes against our values as Americans and is not the way to solve this problem,” adds Keirstead. “Washington needs to forget about the party labels, remember what this country represents, and do what is right for the American people by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”
Other Democrats seeking Rohrabacher’s seat weighed in via social media. Here’s a tweet from Laura Oatman, a LEED-accredited architect, small business owner and mother of five:
Harley Rouda, a Laguna Beach businessman, writes on his Harley for Congress Facebook:
Huntington Beach airline pilot Tony Zarkades writes on his website that “the DACA policy was the right policy for children brought here by their parents” and that he supports “a path to citizenship for all crime free undocumented aliens.”
“All four of my grandparents came to this country from Greece as children or young adults,” Zarkades explains. “Contrary to myth, the Greeks were not welcome to this country with open arms anymore than the Irish, Germans, or French. My paternal grandfather was told not to bother applying for a job at the United Shoe Manufacturing Company in Beverly, MA because Greeks weren’t going to get hired. The house my grandparents bought went up for sale in the 1950’s because the owners were dismayed that too many Italians were moving into the neighborhood. My father and uncles were called ‘greasy Greeks’ at school and speaking Greek was frowned on.
“Today’s fear and apprehension about immigrants is more of the same. Only the country of origin has changed.”
Like Rohrabacher, Rep. Darrell Issa, whose 49th congressional district mostly engulfs northern San Diego county communities but also bleeds into south Orange County, released a statement blaming Obama for DACA.
“President Obama unilaterally created DACA,” states Issa. “He unlawfully overstepped his executive authority and only put a temporary band-aid on a problem which prolonged uncertainty for many children brought here through no fault of their own.
“The administration’s decision today puts the onus on Congress to address this challenge in the right way: for the long-haul, with respect for our nation’s laws, a desire to enhance the integrity of our borders, and a sense of compassion for those who were brought here in their childhood years ago and wish to stay as productive members of our communities. I’m eager to get to work on a permanent fix and call on Democrats and Republicans alike to immediately put political posturing aside and let this be a catalyst to achieve long-overdue reforms in this important area of concern.”
Like Walters, Issa’s office was besieged by pro-DACA demonstrators Tuesday, and one of the Democratic candidates seeking the congressman’s seat was there to capture photos and video of it to post on Twitter. Mike Levin, who is an environmental lawyer and Duke and Stanford alum, also tweeted this:
Also active with pro-DACA tweets was another Issa Democratic opponent, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate. He called on the Republican to support DACA in Congress, noting that, “Thousands of patriotic #Dreamers who served our nation in uniform are at risk of deportation due to @realDonaldTrump’s cruel #DACA decision.” He also posted this funny one.
Naturally, Orange County’s Democratic Members of Congress were equally appalled by the torpedoing of DACA.
“Today is a dark day in America,” said Rep. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) in a statement.
“The only crime DACA students are guilty of is aspiring for the American Dream,” he continues. “They have studied and worked hard to become contributing parts of their communities and our country. Even our private sector leaders support them.
“We must keep fighting and keep hope alive. I hope the President will not go after children and will reconsider his decision. The President needs to consider the lives he will destroy and the economic damage he will inflict if DREAMers are not protected. They are Americans in every sense of the word.”
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), whose 47th district includes the western OC cities Garden Grove, Westminster, Stanton, Los Alamitos and Cypress, called the end to DACA “simply un-American.”
“We would be exiling 800,000 young adults and children from the only country that many of them have ever known, to countries they don’t know,” he says in a statement. “Their life is here and for the most part always has been. They are Americans in all but their birth certificates.
“Ending DACA does nothing to address the real problems posed by our broken immigration system. Rather it jeopardizes the progress DACA made to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, it stokes uncertainty in our immigrant communities, and it adds fire to the heated anti-immigrant rhetoric we saw on the campaign trail last year and continue to hear during rallies since January.”
Lowenthal noted that more than 230,000 individuals in Orange and Los Angeles counties are DACA-eligible. “This decision is an injustice to them, to their families, and to our community. … The President’s actions pull the rug out from under these hardworking young people who know no country but America.
“The fact is that DACA is working. Recent surveys indicate that 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed. Further, these immigrants are starting new businesses at almost double the rate of the general population. Overall, they would potentially contribute over $460 billion to our economy over the next decade.
“There’s bipartisan agreement in Congress that we should not punish DREAMers. Thirteen Republicans in the House and four Republican senators have co-sponsored legislation to codify the protections of the DACA program. These young people want to work hard and build a life here in America, we shouldn’t erect barriers between them and success, but I’m afraid the President’s action today would do just that.”
Orange-born Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Norwalk), whose 38th district includes the OC city of La Palma, called Trump’s “rescission” of DACA “his cruelest action yet against our immigrant–especially the Latino immigrant–community living in the United States.”
She continues, “These DREAMers have lived here almost their entire lives, have integrated into our communities, and have become a part of our American fabric. They see themselves as American in every sense of the word besides having the piece of paper to prove it. Repealing DACA is a foreclosure on the American Dream for nearly a million children and young adults who consider this country their only home.
“This is nothing more than a political decision to appease the extreme factions in his party and includes no good-faith effort to fix our broken immigration system. Since the president has shown his outright hostility to the Latino community, it is time for Republicans to step up and pass the DREAM Act to protect DACA program recipients from deportation and create a legal path towards citizenship for undocumented youth.”
Even more forceful than some of her candidates and officeholders was Democratic Party of Orange County Chairwoman Fran Sdao, who released this statement:
“Trump’s cruel decision to end DACA feeds his racist agenda to wipe out President Obama’s legacy, and serves no other rational purpose. It’s a terrible business decision, it’s an inhumane act, and it harms everyone in Orange County, plain and simple.”
Sdao accused the president of being on the verge of draining “more than 50,000 eligible workers from our local workforce, harming Orange County employers and small businesses. At the same time, Trump is needlessly harming law-abiding local youth who seek work legally and who call America their true home. This decision is an unjust act that steals the American dream from innocent children and young people.”
Sdao called on Orange County progressives to act in support for DACA through donations to groups that assist immigrant youths and by contacting Members of Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA. “And when the time comes,” she added, “vote out all representatives who support Trump over the interests of Orange County.”
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.