On the last day that young immigrants were given to renew their protection from deportation under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program one last time before the program ends in March, some took their frustration with the Trump administration’s immigration policies to Los Angeles streets.
On Thursday morning, several dozen protesters blocked the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue outside the West Los Angeles federal building. Several protesters were arrested.
Many said they were upset with Trump’s decision to end the program known as DACA, but that’s not all.
“It’s time that they defend all of us, not only a portion of us,” said Norberto Lopez, 23, a recent college graduate from South Los Angeles. “We all contribute to this country. At the end of the day, this country was built by immigrants.”
Lopez, a DACA recipient, said his two-year permit expires next October. Once it does, like others who are now protected, he’ll lose his permission to live and work in the United States legally. He said he’s not exactly sure what he’ll do then.
But he and others at the protest said what they’d like to see is not just a path to permanent, legal residency for young people like themselves, but for other unauthorized immigrants like their parents and others who don’t have DACA protection.
“Hopefully, comprehensive immigration reform, that is the ideal,” Lopez said.
Marcela Hernandez with the Immigrant Youth Coalition, one of the protest organizers, said some young people don’t qualify for DACA.
"A lot of our youth don't have DACA, and even though, yes, we think DACA youth should be protected, we think that all youth regardless of qualifying for DACA or not should be protected," Hernandez said.
That’s a long shot right now. Several bills in Congress propose a path to legal status for young immigrants who arrived as minors. But there’s been little movement so far. GOP leaders want compromises, like tighter immigration enforcement.
After midnight Thursday night, federal officials will no longer accept DACA renewals.
Since 2012, the Obama-era DACA program has granted temporary protection from deportation and work permits to about 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants nationwide who were brought to the U.S. as minors.
The Trump administration said last month that those whose DACA status was set to expire between Sept. 5 and March 5, when the program ends, could apply to renew their two-year permit one last time – so long as they did it by the Thursday deadline.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said earlier Thursday that of about 154,000 DACA recipients eligible to renew, 58,000 had already filed renewal paperwork by Sept. 5. Another 60,000 have filed renewal applications since then. That leaves 36,000 others whose applications had yet to be received.
Federal officials said they would continue to accept applications delivered by courier to lock box facilities, listed on a government website, until midnight. Officials said they’d have a final tally of how many DACA applicants made the deadline by next week.
Several lawmakers have asked federal officials to extend the deadline, among them U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris ((D-California). Speaking at a rally Thursday in Washington, D.C., Harris urged last-minute renewal applicants to get their paperwork in and pushed legislation to benefit them.
“Let us fight each and every day between now and the end of the year to pass a clean DREAM act,” Harris said, according to a transcript provided by her staff.
The Dream Act refers to one pending bill that’s similar to past proposal with the same name, which would allow a path to legal status for DACA recipients and other young people who came to the U.S. as minors if they attend college or join the military. Activists have pushed for a “clean” bill that does not include tighter immigration enforcement.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) endorsed the legislation this week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the termination of DACA. “These youth should not be political footballs,” she said.
But some young people at the Thursday protest, who gathered earlier outside Feinstein’s West L.A. office, were critical of lawmakers on both the left and the right as they negotiate the fate of DACA recipients.
“Under the Trump administration, and under Democrats, they are being targeted, they are being criminalized," said Crissel Rodriguez, 29 and herself a DACA recipient. "This is a message to those individuals who are trying to use the Dream Act as a bargaining chip.”
Authorities declared an unlawful assembly after a handful of the marchers set up metal platforms and blocked traffic during the protest. Organizers said nine protesters were arrested, but LAPD officials did not confirm that number.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Trump administration challenging the revocations of DACA protections from young immigrants.
The suit charges the revocations violate the federal administrative law and due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.
This story has been updated.