“Rest assured that whatever happens to me, I am prepared.”
Define American founder and undocumented immigrant journalist Jose Antonio Vargas wrote this on his Facebook wall, a day after the Trump administration announced it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
DACA is a program put in place by former President Obama to protect from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. For five years, the executive order allowed up to 800,000 young immigrants to remain in the US legally for school and for work.
Vargas came to the US at age 12. He went to school in California and worked as a journalist for newspapers, eventually winning a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post.
When he revealed in a New York Times essay that he is out of status, he became an advocate for immigration rights. He founded Define American, an organization that is promoting to “humanize the conversation” on immigration and identity. He could be a DACA beneficiary but he did not meet the age requirement.
“I don’t want to alarm people. But we are living in chaotic, uncertain times so I’ll say this now: Rest assured that whatever happens to me, I am prepared,” he told his legions of Facebook followers, seeming to indicate that he is either prepared to be deported or prepared to fight the government in court.
“We are prepared, and I’m privileged to have a ‘we.’ (The) rest of the Define American family. They got my back. And I’m sure you got mine, too,” he continued.
Hundreds of undocumented youth and their families, immigration advocates, and just plain angry Americans poured into Fifth Avenue in front of the Trump Tower building to protest the termination of DACA. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the program is winding down as Congress prepares legislation that would replace it.
Trump said Congress will find the “right solution” for DACA youth, and that his administration will put in place a program with “heart and compassion.”
Advocates denounced Trump’s decision to discontinue DACA.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) said it was “appalled” to hear the decision.
Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director, said: “After several days of anxiety, DACA beneficiaries and their allies are struck by the cruelty of this action. Despite President Trump’s promise to treat DACA recipients with ‘great heart,’ his administration has decided to pursue a heartless and blatant attack on the young immigrants and their families who contribute to and strengthen our country every day.”
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) said it “stands in solidarity” with the DACA youth and their families. Said National Chairman Brendan Flores, “Eliminating DACA protections unjustly rips away the ladder of opportunity for hard-working people, divides families, and pushes immigrant communities back into the shadows.”
NaFFAA Executive Director Jason Tengco added, “Today’s decision…is a major setback to the 800,000 young individuals who have benefited from the program’s protections. DACA recipients are American in every sense of the way, except for their paperwork, and we should allow them to thrive and build lives here in the United States.”
NaFFAA renewed its call for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law that “unites families, rather than divides them.”
Loida Nicolas Lewis, chairperson of the US Pinoys for Good Governance, said, “Once more, this president chooses to be inhumane and insensitive to the young people we call Dreamers who have known no other country but the USA. They are Americans for all intents and purposes.” —The FilAm