Activists supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cheer as they gather near Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, as they protest President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Members of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation are speaking out against President Trump’s call to dismantle the Obama-era program aimed at protecting young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.
Meanwhile, so-called "dreamers" in Hawaii are voicing fears about what the end of the program would mean.
“I want to be clear: I reject any effort to hold these young people hostage for an unnecessary waste of money like Donald Trump’s wall,” Hirono said.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, also said the decision is “one of the most inhumane things this administration could do.”
“We should all be able to agree that people who came here as children, who have grown up as American as anyone else’s kids, should not be stripped away from the communities they’re a part of to go back to a country they don’t remember,” Schatz said, in a statement.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants with a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S. via renewable work permits.
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!
On Tuesday, Trump said he loves "dreamers" who could face deportation because of his action, but insisted it's up to Congress to address their plight.
Trump didn't specify what he wanted done, essentially sending a six-month time bomb to his fellow Republicans in Congress who have no consensus on how to defuse it.
On Twitter Tuesday night, he wrote: "Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!"
Trump was under pressure from several states that threatened to sue his administration if it did not end DACA. And he declared on the campaign trail that the program was an "illegal" executive amnesty.
Immigrant advocates, clergy and business leaders put intense pressure on Trump to maintain the program. But he decided to end it.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said DACA has transformed the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of young people, both in Hawaii and across the mainland.
"Because of DACA they've been able to go to college, find a job, support their family, serve their country, and live free from the constant fear of deportation."
Shingai Misaya, a 33-year-old dreamer who works in Gabbard's office, said it was a difficult day.
"To be honest with you, we've been living in fear for years and years," said Misaya, who was brought to Dallas From Zimbabwe when he was 13 years old. He went on to attend Hawaii Pacific University. "I take it day by day, but I'd like to say to all the dreamers out there, please keep your heads up."
In Hawaii, there are about 21,000 unauthorized immigrants, and 2,000 qualify for DACA.
Gabbard said more than 600 young people in Hawaii were able to remain legally in the U.S. because of DACA. At least 13 of them are attending the University of Hawaii.
Hawaii immigration attorney Gary Singh said there isn't much dreamers can do as they wait to see how Congress moves forward.
"They should be very concerned because after six months they have no immigration status," Singh said.
On Congressional action, he added, "We have the Republicans running the show. What are the chances of them passing a law in 6 months?"
More than four years ago, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents adopted a policy to extend eligibility for resident tuition rates to undocumented students, including those who have filed for DACA, a program that UH President David Lassner said he supports.
"As our state's only public higher education system, we have a deep responsibility to provide high-quality affordable education to advance all our people, our communities and our islands," Lassner said. "That mission requires that we support and celebrate diversity, respect and caring."