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VOL. 132 | NO. 177 | Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cohen Criticizes, Kustoff Commends 6-Month DACA Wind-Down

By Bill Dries

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U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis termed President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday, Sept. 5, to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program over the next six months “heartless, illogical and un-American.”

And U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Germantown termed DACA an "unlawful" immigration policy and "an abuse of executive authority" whose removal by Trump sets the stage for Congressional action on a policy.

The DACA program, enacted under President Barack Obama’s administration, shields young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children from deportation and allows them to work in the U.S. under two-year, renewable work permits.

“DACA is a common sense, compassionate program that helps protect from deportation young people who were brought to the United States by no choice of their own,” Cohen, a Democrat, said in a written statement. “I urge Congress to move quickly to protect these bright and talented young people who have significantly contributed to what makes America great.”

More than 200 people turned out to demonstrate in front of the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building in Downtown Memphis on Monday, Sept. 4, in response to President Donald Trump’s proposal to end the DACA program. The protest was organized by Christian Brothers University students and Latino Memphis. (Daily News/Houston  Cofield)

 

Kustoff, a Republican whose 15-county district includes parts of Memphis and Shelby County outside the city, said, "The fact of the matter is that Congress writes laws, not the president, and it is critical that we restore the separation of powers and defend the constitution."

"Now, Congress will have a period of time to find a permanent, common-sense legislative solution," Kustoff added in his written statement.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said Trump is right "to want this issue to be resolved legislatively."

"Hopefully, while addressing it, we also will deal with a myriad of other issues that need to be corrected with our broken immigration system, including enhancing enforcement and security measures," he added in a written statement.

Meanwhile, University of Memphis President David Rudd said Tuesday the university will support students affected by the shift in policy with Tuesday's announcement in Washingtion.

"Rest assured that the American dream is alive and well at the University of Memphis," Rudd said in a written statement. "And we will be working with our representatives in the U.S. Congress and Senate to make sure our voices are heard on an issue so critical to our country and university."

Rudd also said for Memphis students affected by the wind down of DACA "the road ahead promises serious challenges."

"They should know that they are not alone, as we will be working through our elected officials to support their argument that not only do they belong on our campus, but they are making significant contributions to our campus, our community and our country," he added.

More than 200 people turned out to demonstrate in front of the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building in Downtown Memphis on Monday, Sept. 4, in response to President Donald Trump’s proposal to end the DACA program. The protest was organized by Christian Brothers University students and Latino Memphis. (Daily News/Houston  Cofield)

Christian Brothers University president John Smarrelli said the change in policy has "many troubling implications."

"And candidly we are uncertain exactly what the impact off this decision will be for everyone," he said in a written statement."

Smarrelli estimates there are 2,000 young adults in the city who came to the U.S. illegally as children who are protected by DACA.

"CBU is fully committed to the safety, security and dignity of our Latino students," he said. "CBU has made a strong commitment to be an institution that welcomes and serves these individuals. It would be an appalling abrogation of our mission and our Lasallian principles if we allowed their race, immigration status, or any other political factor to impair their education."

Just before a long Labor Day weekend of leaks about what Trump’s decision on the future of DACA would be, Tennessee state government joined Republicans calling for a legislative decision rather than a legal decision.

In the process, Tennessee walked away from the group of states whose ultimatum to the White House – kill the executive order or be sued – prompted the timing of Trump’s announcement.

More than 200 people gathered in Memphis’ Civic Center Plaza on Monday, Sept. 4, the night before Trump’s formal announcement, to push for the continuation of DACA.

Organized by Christian Brothers University students and Latino Memphis, the protest outside the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building included calls of support for a new DACA legislative act pending in Congress.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced in a letter Friday to U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee that the state was changing its position on ending DACA but not the legality of the executive order.

Tennessee was among the states that successfully challenged a similar Obama administration executive order, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, act.

“(DACA) suffers from the same constitutional infirmities,” Slatery wrote Alexander and Corker. “Our office has a track record of consistently challenging actions when we believe the federal executive branch has overreached its authority or adversely affected Tennessee’s interests.”

“There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored,” Slatery added in the Sept. 1 letter. “Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benefit and service to our country. They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country.”

Latino Memphis advocacy director Gina John referred to Slatery’s letter during the protest.

“All of us here have witnessed that human element here tonight,” she said after a group of local Latino college students dropped ceremonial college diploma scrolls in a white casket while wearing graduation robes and mortarboards. Many spoke about their lives in the U.S. and contributions to the country.

“We have a responsibility to care for our fellow Americans,” John said.

Those in the procession through a corridor of foreign flags of countries honored by the Memphis in May International Festival wore signs reading “Future …” with a fill-in-the-blank section for their planned professions.

CBU student Michelle Diaz had fill in the blank with “youth pastor.”

The 19-year-old student told the crowd, “I was not born illegal. I was born a child of God.”

Diaz also said revoking DACA would create “the divided states of America” by ripping apart families in which some siblings were born in the U.S. and some were not.

Slatery endorsed the bipartisan Senate bill John referenced that would create a path to citizenship for those immigrants who came to the country illegally before they turned 18 and who have lived in the U.S. for at least four years. Other criteria for the path include a security check and being enrolled in college, joining the military or finding a job.

The bill, sponsored by Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, was endorsed by other Congressional Republicans in advance of Trump’s announcement.

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