The news that the government is phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, was met Tuesday with shock, anger, and a sense of betrayal by its beneficiaries, often called ‘‘Dreamers.’’
Demonstrations broke out in New York City, where police handcuffed and removed over a dozen immigration activists who briefly blocked Trump Tower, and in other cities, including Salt Lake City, Denver, Los Angeles, and Portland, Ore. Students walked out of class in protest in several cities, including Phoenix and Albuquerque.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said DACA, started by president Barack Obama in 2012, was an unconstitutional exercise of executive power. The Trump administration and other DACA opponents argue that it is up to Congress to decide how to deal with such immigrants.
At a Los Angeles rally, handyman John Willis carried a sign saying ‘‘American lives matter’’ and criticized the DACA program as an ‘‘unlawful tyrannical executive order that our previous president thrust upon us.’’
‘‘I don’t wish these kids to be sent back to Mexico or anything like that, but I don’t believe we should have two sets of laws,’’ he said. ‘‘We have one set of laws, we should follow them. Congress needs to get up off the pot and enact some legislation to take care of this mess.’’
Ricardo Ortiz, who was brought to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico, at age 3, has been volunteering at the downtown Houston convention center that sheltered thousands of Hurricane Harvey victims.
Ortiz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Houston, said he doesn’t know what he will do if DACA is ended or he is forced to leave the country.
‘‘It’s crazy that people really think that we don’t belong here when we’ve been here all of our lives,’’ he said.
Amid fears of a greater immigration crackdown, Oscar Belanger, vice principal at Nellie Muir Elementary School in the predominantly Latino town of Woodburn, Ore., greeted students in English and Spanish on their first day of class.
He told a reporter the school would refuse to turn over students’ information to immigration agents, noting that Oregon law prohibits that. He said administrators and teachers want Washington to stand by the DACA beneficiaries. Only those who are at least 15 can apply for the program.
In Miami, Paola Martinez, 23, who is from Bogota, Colombia, sobbed as she attended a rally of about 100 immigrants, and said she will feel helpless without DACA. She recently graduated with a civil engineering degree from Florida International University.
‘‘Instead of going a step forward, we are going a step backwards. We are hiding in the shadows again after my work [permit] expires. It’s just sadness,’’ she said. ‘‘You just feel like you are empty. There is no support anymore.’’
Martinez said she is not able to renew her permit because it expires in 2019, so she is hoping her employer or another company sponsors her so she can stay and help support her parents, who depend on her for rides and household expenses. In Florida, immigrants who are illegally in the country cannot get driver’s licenses.
Karen Marin, a 26-year-old from New York whose parents brought her to the United States from Mexico before she was a year old, was in physics class at Bronx Community College when Sessions made the announcement.
‘‘I honestly I can’t even process it right now. I’m still trying to get myself together,’’ Marin said. ‘‘I just hope that they do change their mind and they realize what they’re doing is wrong.’’