Washington, DC – —American labor unions reacted angrily to President Donald Trump’s announcement Sept. 5 that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them here as children from deportation.
“Ending DACA will increase the pool of vulnerable workers in our country and embolden employers to retaliate against working men and women who dare to organize on the job or speak out against abusive working conditions,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “We will push for a pathway to citizenship and continue to oppose enforcement policies that discriminate and generate fear in our workplaces and communities.”
Trump called the program, which President Barack Obama created by executive order in 2012 after a Republican filibuster blocked similar legislation, an “amnesty-first approach.” It lets people who came here before 2010 and when they were under 16 apply for two-year reprieves during which they can work legally and not be deported. Trump said it would end on March 5, 2018, unless Congress passes legislation to replace it.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that Obama had issued the executive order “without statutory authority.” “Failure to enforce our laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence, and terrorism,” he told reporters. “The compassionate thing to do is end the lawlessness.”
“This shameful move is cruel and only seeks to fuel Trump’s anti-immigrant and racist agenda,” SEIU International Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz said in a statement. “This doesn’t create a single job in our country,” SEIU Local 32BJ’s Boston vice president, Roxana Rivera, posted on Twitter.
“This policy is another clear example of white supremacy strategies and tactics and we denounce it,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas, UNITE HERE Local 226.
“Hundreds of thousands of young, hard-working men and women who love America will now be needlessly punished for childhood circumstances,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “These young people have grown up in this country, passed background checks, pay taxes, go to school, and have worked hard to build a better America. They have earned and deserve fair treatment.”
He cited figures from a December 2016 study by the Immigration Legal Resource Center that estimated terminating DACA would cut contributions to Medicare and Social Security by an average of $2.5 billion a year, and that 6% of recipients have launched businesses that employ American citizens, more than half have purchased a vehicle, and more than one in ten have bought a home.
United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, the Communications Workers of America, the Union Veterans Council, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten expressed similar sentiments. “Children should be free to learn and live without fear,” Weingarten said. “Inhumane immigration policies deprive them of that freedom.”
“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals allowed me the opportunity to come out of the shadows of my immigration status and lose the fear of deportation,” Mexican-born AFT member Areli Zarate, a teacher for three years, wrote on the union’s Web site. “Yet, every time I have to renew my DACA, I am reminded that my status is temporary.”
Union members also joined hastily organized protests against the decision in Washington, New York, and Chicago.
In New York, United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal said the decision is of “grave concern” for “the tens of thousands of ‘Dreamers’ who are students at SUNY and other campuses around the country.”
“These are America’s kids. We aren’t going to let them be kicked out of the country or pushed back into the shadows,” said Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda, who is also president of the Teamsters National Hispanic Caucus. “One of our own members was picked up by ICE just 12 days ago. Eber Garcia Vasquez has been a Teamster for 26 years. We are all under attack and we all need to fight back.”