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Reichert: Trump DACA decision ‘not in American DNA’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared Tuesday, calling the Obama administration's DACA program "an unconstitutional exercise of authority." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
LISTEN: OSPI Chris Reykdal responds to Trump DACA decision

Washington officials called President Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA “very, very sad,” and that it is “not in the American DNA” after Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday.

“The larger issue here is (Trump) is going to try to leverage this, he is going to use these vulnerable kids as a tool in Congressional negotiation to get something from Congress that he wants – whether it’s the wall or more enforcement of immigration of adults,” said Washington’s  Superintendent for Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “Who knows, but clearly he has put 800,000 young people as a political weapon in this fight against Congress. I think it’s very, very sad.”

RELATED: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson vows to legally fight Trump’s DACA decision

Trump’s plan is to phase out DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — and give Congress time to come up with another solution. DACA was implemented under the Obama administration. Sessions placed considerable blame on Obama for the DACA controversy, Tuesday, saying that it encouraged an increased flow of illegal immigration and denied citizens jobs in the country.

But not all in Congress, or even Trump’s own Republican Party, agree with the decision. Washington Republican Congressman Dave Reichert immediately responded to the announcement, urging Congress to uphold DACA.

“Children who were brought here by no fault of their own and see America as their country and their homes,” Reichert said Tuesday. “They are our friends, neighbors, colleagues, spouses and honored members of the military willing to sacrifice their life for our freedom. Punishing these individuals who have contributed so much to our communities and for a crime they did not commit is not in the American DNA. We are a caring, compassionate people and we in Congress must work toward a long-term immigration solution that is fair, respects the dignity of families and allows all individuals to pursue the American dream.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine released the following statement shortly after Trump’s announcement:

The president is intentionally tearing families and communities apart across the United States, threatening innocent people who were brought to America as children.

Rather than seeking to unite the country, he is targeting children and young people – our neighbors; our kids’ classmates – families who make our communities and economies stronger, and reconfirm America’s promise as a land of opportunity.

I stand with advocates, faith leaders, and elected officials across the country in calling on Congress to pass legislation to make our commitment to Dreamers permanent. Now is the time for courage and leadership, not fear and intimidation.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray also responded, saying Seattle will continue to protect immigrants. He notes that Seattle has an immigrant legal defense fund to provide legal assistance.

President Trump’s elimination of DACA is a reprehensible and heartless act by a president who has repeatedly attacked immigrants. His action could rip apart families and will certainly instill fear in millions, including hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. as children and are students in our schools, coworkers and members of our communities. Ending DACA increases the fear many have already been feeling since Trump took over, that they may return home to find a family member detained or authorities waiting for them. 

DACA and Washington schools

Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal told Seattle’s Morning News that school officials are charged with getting the message out that an education will be provided to all students in the state.

“We just continue to point to our state constitution, which says a student residing within our boundaries will be served a public education,” Reykdal said. “I try to make that really clear to superintendents and district leaders that our job is to teach kids. We are not immigration enforcement officers.”

“When they show up in that school building, they are students; they are entitled to the same education services,” he said. “Our districts are doing a good job telling families ‘this is a safe place for you, we want you here, we want you to learn.’ It’s just a difficult message for them right now, when all the federal conversation is ‘We don’t want you.’ And they are trying to remove these children, who for no choice (of their own), came here as children and are trying to make the most of it.”

Reykdal said that the state’s K-12 school system does not keep records on the immigration status of students. He said that Washington ranks 10th in the nation in participants in DACA. That equates to about 18,000 students in the K-12 system who have been approved under DACA in the past 4.5 years.

The higher education system, however, deals with financial aid, so it may be a different story at that level, Reykdal notes. News like Tuesday’s announcement means that students won’t aim for higher education or more rigorous course work, he said.

Reykdal also said that immigration officers have never come into any schools looking for students and that it would be an “ugly situation” if that occurred.

“I think folks are nervous and would like to believe our schools are a sanctuary … but that doesn’t change anything for these families,” he said. “You step off campus at 3:01 or 3:15 and there’s a lot of fear.”

 

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