Kimberly Alemán clearly recalled the day she was accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allowed her to work in the U.S. while she attended Yakima Valley College.
“I was in tears because I knew my life was about to change,” the 22-year-old told a crowd of more that 50 people during a noon rally Tuesday at Yakima’s Millennium Plaza just hours after President Donald Trump announced his plans to scrap the program. “Today I am fearing what is next.”
Alemán’s parents brought her here from Mexico when she was 1 year old. Her parents work in the fields and she aspires to become an immigration attorney to help others.
But now her future, as well as that of many others like her, is uncertain.
“I’m scared, confused — what am I going to do?” Alemán said after addressing the crowd. “What I’m going to do is keep fighting.”
The rally drew a mix of people — Latinos, Filipino-Americans and whites, among them — all in support of DACA recipients also known as “Dreamers.”
During the event, advocates from Columbia Legal Services and the state Commission on Hispanic Affairs encouraged people not to shy away from renewing visas or their DACA status before a March 5 deadline when new DACA applications will no longer be processed.
Another rally later in day drew even more supporters, more than 80 men, women and children holding signs reading “Save DACA” and “Immigrants Get the Job Done.” After a brief gathering at the plaza, the group walked to the corner of Third Street and Yakima Avenue where they chanted “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” and “The People United, We’ll Never Be Divided.” Passing cars honked.
At the earlier rally, Yakima City Council members Carmen Mendez and Dulce Gutiérrez were in attendance. Gutiérrez told the crowd she has relatives who are undocumented and understands the challenges. She also vowed to help organize efforts to keep some form of DACA alive and wants to unite mayors and city council members throughout the Valley to begin pressing Congress for effective immigration reform.
She raised her voice as a people in a passing car yelled at those in the rally to go back their own country.
“I was expecting something this horrible from the president,” she said. “I’m not shocked. That’s why we’ve got to keep pressing Congress. DACA is just the beginning. It’s not even halfway through the fight for immigration reform. We, right now, must be united.”
Congressman Dan Newhouse, who was not at the rally, said Congress must act now to protect DACA recipients.
“I am committed to working on behalf of Dreamers and urge my colleagues to work together to provide a legislative solution,” he said in a Tuesday statement.
Trump’s decision also drew the ire of The Rev. Joseph J. Tyson, bishop of the Diocese of Yakima, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
In a Tuesday morning news release, Tyson decried the Trump administration’s decision on DACA and announced upcoming listening sessions he plans to hold in Yakima with the first on Sept. 11.
“During this time of uncertainty, I want the youth of our diocese affected by this decision to know that the Catholic Church walks with them, and that they are near to the heart of Pope Francis,” Tyson said.
Tyson said the impact of losing DACA will be greatly felt in the Yakima Valley. Church summer camps this year alone drew about 70 young people from Yakima and another 80 from Grandview, nearly all of them DACA recipients. He estimates there are thousands of DACA children in the Valley.
“It’s not good to hold young people hostage because politicians can’t get it together,” Tyson said in a later interview. “These are young people who came to this country without any choice with their parents.”
The American Civil Liberties Union called the effort to rescind DACA an “act of cruelty.”
“The government and President Trump went back on their word, threw the lives and futures of 800,000 Dreamers and their families into disarray and injected chaos and uncertainty into thousands of workplaces and communities across America. There is no humane way to end DACA before having a permanent legislative fix in place,” a news release from the organization said.
In closing at the earlier rally, Alemán said: “Trump, I don’t wish you any wrong or anything bad to you, but I do wish one day you’ll step in all of our shoes and see, feel what we are feeling today. You might have just taken all of our dreams away that we’ve been working hard for all of our lives.”