The fight is only beginning, say Tampa Bay-area residents who face deportation because of Tuesday’s decision by the Donald Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
“This is an attack on our community, so I want everybody to come together and fight, because this is not the end,” said Valentina Ortiz, 26, at a news conference by immigration advocates in Ybor City’s Centennial Park.
“I have a lot of emotions — sad, mad, but it’s not going to be the end of it. We’re going to fight until the end,” added Maria Palacios, 22, who says she has lived in Tampa nearly her entire life.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a six-month wind-down period of the 2012 executive order by then-President Barack Obama to provide work permits to undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. The grace period will allow Congress to act on the issue before the program dies.
Since February, the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have reported an almost 40 percent increase in immigration arrests under Trump — with the largest spike in immigrants with no criminal offense other than being undocumented, according to a government report released in May.
“They say they’re coming after criminals, but the reality is that we have seen families being torn apart regardless of (whether) they have a criminal record or not,” said DACA recipient, Nanci Palacios, 28.
Florida Democrats denounced the decision.
“Ending DACA is morally bankrupt, and it’s a decision by President Trump that again shows a lack of appreciation of real American values. President Trump’s decision will have significant economic consequences for communities across the country,” said Marcia Mejia, speaker as the district director for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa.
Religious officials also spoke out.
“The time for silence and nuanced words is over,” said the Reverend Andy Oliver, the senior pastor of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. He said his words were specifically aimed at members of the “white church.”
“We must boldly speak out against this evil administration that continues to target different oppressed groups in our population,” said Oliver. “I’m here today because those people who are being oppressed are part of me. As Trump singles out each different group to come after, he’s coming after my family.”
Palacios said the Trump administration had awoken “a sleeping giant” in its decision Tuesday. “A sleeping giant that knows how to organize.”
She said that Obama didn’t declare the DACA program out of the goodness of his heart, but was a reaction to the grassroots pressure put upon him by Latino advocates around the country.
Among the groups present were SEIU, Tampa for Justice, Organize Florida and the Florida Council of Churches, among others.
Organizers said that there would be a series of community meetings this week for those who are or could be affected by the president’s announcement to come together and strategize moving forward. That includes meetings Tuesday night at 5 p.m. at Centro Cristiano El Shaddai in Clearwater, and at 6 p.m. at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Tampa.