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For LA Dreamers, anger and resolve after news of DACA's demise

Alejandra Valles of SEIU Workers West (USWW) told attendees at a Sept. 5, 2017 Los Angeles rally in support of DACA that they would "outsmart" President Trump, whose administration is shutting down the program that granted work permits and deportation protection for young immigrants. Josie Huang/KPCC

Within hours of the Trump administration announcing it was ending a program that shields many young immigrants from deportation, hundreds of so-called Dreamers and their supporters congregated in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday to protest the decision. 

Ivan Ceja, a 25-year-old beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, spoke out at a morning rally at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building.

"To Trump, I just want to make it clear ... the strength and resilience of immigrants, undocumented or not, has no expiration date," said Ceja, a Compton resident. 

California has the most DACA recipients of any state — about 200,000 — and roughly half reside in Los Angeles County.

At the rallies, dozens of young adults who had signed on to DACA as early as 2012 when the program opened expressed a weariness about the constant uncertainty over their status in the only country they say they call home.

Julieta Loreto, a 34-year-old DACA recipient from Cudahy, was brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was 11. She just received her nursing degree in June.

"I have friends who have become engineers, who have become teachers, who have become social workers or who are nurses like me and now we don’t have any way to contribute to our communities,"  Loreto said.  

But Loreto, and other Dreamers, also spoke of their willingness to fight and pressure Congress to pass legislation to replace DACA in the six months before the program is shut down. 

As a sign of her optimism, Loreto said she still planned to get a master's degree to further her nursing career. 

Immigration advocates and city and county officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, spoke at the rallies to show their support for DACA.

Garcetti, standing outside county offices with county supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn, said politicians need to pass legislation that will grant legal status to the immigrants brought here as children. 

"We say clearly to Washington, 'Get your act together and do what’s right for America and pass the Dream Act, once and for all, right now,'" Garcetti said.  

Ceja said he would like to see legislation that would cover more people than just Dreamers. He said it was important to aim high, rather than take a piecemeal approach with a version of the Dream Act, a proposal to grant legal residency to immigrant minors.

Ceja has made big gains since he joined DACA. He runs a social media nonprofit that features immigration news, and is taking business classes.

At the same time, Ceja can picture a reality where he loses his legal status. 

"It's going to get tougher, but it's not impossible as well," Ceja said.

Ceja points to the millions of immigrants who are not covered by DACA now. Ceja says he'll find a way to survive too.