Hispanic Utah legislators implore congressional delegation to oppose Trump’s DACA elimination plan

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Leonel Nieto holds a sign at a rally at the State Capitol building in Salt Lake City to "remind Senator Hatch and Senator Lee that DACA is #HereToStay, Thursday August 31, 2017.

Four Utah lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to the state’s members of Congress, calling for “immediate action” to defend the President Barack Obama-era program that protects some young immigrants from deportation.

The letter from four Latino lawmakers comes as news outlets reported Sunday that President Donald Trump was strongly considering ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, with an enforcement delay of six months. Trump’s decision is expected to be announced Tuesday. 

Implemented in 2012, the program allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to legally obtain work permits and attend school. DACA recipients are required to reapply every two years, pass background checks and pay a fee.

“We call upon you, as elected federal representatives of this state, to take immediate action and protect the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are enrolled” in DACA, says the letter signed by Salt Lake City‘s Sen. Luz Escamilla, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck and Rep. Angela Romero, as well as Murray Rep. Mark Wheatley. All four are Democrats.

The letter calls on Utah’s congressional delegation to pass legislation that would protect DACA recipients, which number about 800,000 across the nation; about 10,500 of those were approved in Utah, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, last week called on Trump not to eliminate DACA, saying the action would “complicate a system in need of a permanent, legislative solution.” Several other congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have also expressed concern about terminating the program. 

“Many of them know no other home but this country,” the state legislators wrote of DACA recipients, or dreamers. “They grew up here, they’ve gone to school here, many have served our nation in the military and they deserve a chance to build lives in this great nation.”

The letter criticizes Trump for previously saying recipients shouldn’t worry, and that “we think the Dreamers are terrific.”

“Yet, we now know that he has decided to terminate DACA. If this is how he treats Americans he thinks are ‘terrific,’ we’d hate to see how he treats Americans he dislikes,” the legislators wrote.

They cite a study by the progressive Center For American Progress that estimated the U.S. would lose about $460 billion in gross domestic product over the next decade without DACA.

“We strongly implore you to sign on [to DACA legislations] as co-sponsors and assure that this legislation passes with all due haste,” the letter concludes.

Also Monday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican, issued a statement calling for Congress to swiftly pass legislation to protect DACA recipients. He said while DACA ”is a creation of executive order that can be undone by executive order,” Trump should allow Congress enough time to pass legislation to replace it. He said such immigration reform made by Congress and not the president would “have greater permanency and legal legitimacy.” 

“It is unconscionable to deport a young person who came to this country as a child or even infant without any choice of their own,” Reyes said. ”These kids are our kids too.”