BOISE - Several hundred people gathered Saturday morning on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol and on grassy areas across the street to rally for protection of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and may be affected by the Trump Administration's decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
About 3,100 young people in Idaho and nearly 788,000 nationwide have received permission to live, work and attend college in the U.S., without fear of deportation, through the DACA program, begun in 2012 through an executive order by then-President Barack Obama.
The administration is asking Congress to come up with a legislative solution within the next six months. During that window, DACA recipients do not face deportation.
Applications for DACA received by September 5 are still being considered, and renewals for DACA authorizations set to expire before March 5, 2018, will be considered if they are received by October 5.
Cristian Anguiano is a DACA recipient who arrived in the U.S. from Mexico when he was five years old. He grew up in southern Idaho and recently graduated from Eastern Oregon University with a degree in sociology. He now works for the university as an admissions counselor.
"I've lived here for the past 20 years. I've contributed to this wonderful country, so I just feel like I belong here, and I want to feel accepted," Anguiano said at Saturday's rally. "I feel like if we make the right movement toward giving DACA recipients citizenship, I feel like that would be a good step to go toward."
Anguiano said he was disappointed by the decision to phase out DACA.
"I'm very optimistic, I'm very positive. I took a big blow hearing that," he said. "For the past five years, I've worked so hard to obtain my bachelor's degree, to make sure I don't get into trouble. I don't have any tickets on my record - not even a speeding ticket, no parking tickets, nothing like that."
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Photos: #HereToStay rally for DACA recipients
Sponsors of Saturday's rally include the Idaho Organizing Project, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, and ACLU of Idaho.
Leaders inside the Idaho Capitol have expressed support for the Trump Administration's decision to rescind the 2012 executive order that created the DACA program, but say they want to see Congress pass a law that takes into account the needs of affected families.
In June, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter joined Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the attorneys general of nine other states in signing a letter urging the Trump Administration to phase out DACA. They argue that President Obama violated the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on that question.
"Under the Constitution, the responsibility of creating immigration policy falls squarely on Congress," Wasden said in a written statement issued on September 6. "However, the root of this entire issue is Congress's failure to pass a law that takes into account the needs of everyday families, especially those families whose ties cross international borders. This announcement from the administration paves the way for our federal lawmakers to finally step up and deal with this very important issue once and for all.
"Also, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo ... outlining the path forward for DACA and placing the responsibility with Congress. I encourage those interested in this issue to review it."
That memo from acting Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine C. Duke is available here.