Sacramento reassures ‘dreamers’ that federal action won’t change local welcome

Sacramento city leaders, including the mayor, the police chief and the superintendent of city schools, Tuesday pledged to continue to welcome “Dreamers” even if the federal government moves to end the protected status of these young adults brought to the United States illegally as children.

During a morning rally at City Hall, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said there are currently about 13,000 young adults eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program living in Sacramento County. With DACA, they are able to register for a two-year renewable deferral from deportation that allows them to legally work and attend school.

“This is the land of opportunity,” said Steinberg. Dreamers “have worked hard to contribute, not to take ... There is always a new opportunity to embrace American values. Protect DACA, celebrate the Dreamers.”

The DACA program is unpopular with many conservatives. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to end it, but he has delayed taking action since he took office.

“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make. I really understand the situation now,” Trump told media in July during a conversation on Air Force One. “I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”

Trump’s hand is now being forced by the threat of a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the attorney generals of nine other Republican states. That coalition has said it will pursue a challenge of DACA and other immigration issues in federal court if the Trump administration does not take action to end or curtail DACA by Sept. 5.

With that date quickly approaching, immigration activists across the country have been vocal in their support of the program, and the young women and men it protects — about 800,000 nationwide.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn spoke Tuesday to assure local residents that the police department does not and will not check the immigration status of those it encounters, including people reporting crimes or the victims of crimes.

“I believe in times of uncertainty, which we are in right now in regards to this issue, it’s important that our community knows where their police department stands and what this means to their police department and more importantly maybe what it does not mean to their police department,” Hahn said. “Regardless of what federal program gets changed or doesn’t get changed, our mission statement doesn’t change. And so we are primarily tasked with enforcing local and state laws and to do that we need the trust of our community, of all of our community.”

Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar also spoke at the event, promising protection both for district employees who hold DACA status and students who may lack documentation.

Aguilar said he wanted “to be very clear that we will welcome and we will protect every one of those students and every one of those employees. This is what makes a great city.”

Aguilar encouraged community support with the school year slated to begin this week and the uncertainty looming for some students.

“Change comes from the people,” said Dreamer Pablo Reyes-Morales. “This is a fight we cannot afford to lose.”

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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