Trump ends DACA, confirming fears in Park City
Local officials hope Congress can reach a solution to keep protections in place
The messages from worried students started trickling into Rebeca Gonzalez’s phone.
Last week, reports from national media outlets began to swirl that President Trump was readying to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era executive order that extends certain rights to young people whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally when they were children.
In Park City, an effort orchestrated through the Park City Education Foundation had been underway for months to help as many undocumented students as possible apply for DACA. School officials have long touted the benefits of the program, which among other things protects students from deportation and allows them to apply for work authorization and Social Security numbers.
Many Park City recipients of DACA see the protections it contains as critical for their futures. Without them, for instance, the threat of deportation looms, and the chance of receiving financial aid for college through the state disappears. And without work authorization, paying their way through school is made more difficult.
But the uncertainty about whether Trump would continue the program left many students anxious.
“A lot of students were asking me, ‘Is it true? Is it ended?” said Gonzalez, the director of the Park City School District’s Bright Futures program and a mentor to many Latino students in town, on Friday. “For me, it was heartbreaking.”
On Tuesday morning, the students received a measure of clarity, but many of their fears were confirmed — at least partly. The Trump administration announced the end of the program in a press conference, and new applications for DACA will no longer be considered.
However, permits for anyone whose protections are set to expire can be renewed during the next six months, giving Congress time to reach a legislative solution that would determine the fate of DACA recipients. Many Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, urged Trump to keep the program in place and appear willing to work toward legislation that would make the protections DACA provides permanent.
Moe Hickey, a former member of the Park City Board of Education, spearheaded the push to get more students applied for DACA this spring, and three students had been approved for the protections as a result of the effort (three others were in the middle of the application process).
Hickey said Monday, after news had broken that Trump would end the program, that he hoped Congress would put politics aside and reach a bipartisan permanent solution. Doing so, he said, would help hundreds of thousands of young people who came to the United States by no choice of their own but who are now important contributors to the country.
“We see it locally — these are kids who have been here since they were 1, 2, 3 years old,” he said. “They don’t know another country. They don’t know another home. … From a humane perspective, I’m hoping they’ll do what’s right for these kids.”
Though Gonzalez had hoped DACA would remain in place, she also acknowledged there was room to improve the protections through legislations. She said Friday that, if the program is rescinded, the community needs to stand with a united voice to ensure lawmakers understand how important it is to protect undocumented students like the ones in Park City.
“If DACA is repealed, we’ll be very hurt — not only as an immigrant community but the whole community,” she said. “But I know that students are going to keep having the resiliency that they do. To me, hope is important. They’re the future and I want them to know their hometown supports them. DACA can be stripped away, but that doesn’t mean their dreams will be stripped away.”
Update: The Park City School District released the following statement Wednesday about the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA.
“As we embarked upon this school year, we laid the foundation for a learning environment that is positive and inclusive for all students in light of national civil unrest. Some of our staff expressed concerns about the social climate and the desire to be effective in creating and maintaining a fair and equitable learning environment for all students, to provide learning opportunities for inclusion and for the celebration of diversity. We remain steadfast to our district focus – the year of Safe and Healthy.
“Yesterday (Sept. 5, 2017), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DHS will provide a limited, six-month window during which it will consider certain requests for DACA and for applications for work authorization, under specific parameters.
“We appreciate the empathy and caring our staff are showing in light of this situation and recognize that whether it is this issue or other issues that our nation faces, we must continue to provide an environment that is welcoming to ALL students. Park City School District reaffirms its commitment to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for all of our students, regardless of race, religion, national origin/ethnicity, color, sex/gender (including sexual orientation and gender identity), pregnancy, age, disability, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law. We hold ourselves accountable to these standards as educators, and we expect our students and staff to adhere to these standards. We will lead by example as we celebrate all students in the district.”
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.