‘They are, by all accounts, Americans’: most Utahns oppose deporting DACA recipients

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hundreds of “We are Dreamers,” a Utah pro-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) group, marched in solidarity from the Utah Federal Building to the State Capitol with undocumented immigrants who will be affected by the end of DACA.

Rep. Mia Love called the Obama-era program that protected certain young immigrants from deportation a “Band-Aid” on Tuesday night as she urged Congress to develop a more permanent solution that includes a relatively short path to citizenship.

“They are, by all accounts, Americans,” the Utah Republican said during an online town hall.

Her comments come more than a month after President Donald Trump announced his intentions to dissolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They also reflect the findings of a new Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, which showed a strong majority of Utahns opposed to deporting DACA recipients, undocumented immigrants who were brought here when they were children.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents in the Dan Jones & Associates survey indicated they support allowing these immigrants to stay in the country. Some 21 percent said those individuals should be ousted, while 7 percent were undecided.

The poll, conducted from Oct. 10 to 13 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percentage points, also suggests that individuals who identify as “very liberal” tend to be among the strongest advocate for these immigrants with 97 percent in favor of allowing them to stay.

Still, there was majority backing across political ideologies, with 53 percent of people who considered themselves “very conservative” and 82 percent of moderates in support of letting DACA recipients continue to live in the United States. As did majorities in every demographic group: men and women, and people of all ages, faiths and levels of educational attainment.

“I don’t even know where people would be deported to because they don’t have families there anymore,” said Love, who is the child of immigrants. Her parents fled Haiti to escape potential political persecution and settled in America. Love was born in New York City.

Matt Slade, who responded to the poll and considers himself a moderate Republican, does not support sending DACA recipients back to their country of origin, though he opposes illegal immigration.

He believes Congress ought to come up with a solution to provide, at the least, a path to permanent residency and, possibly, a path to citizenship for these people.

“It wasn‘t their choice,” Slade said. “Why should these children be punished for their parents’ transgressions?”

Milagro Ivester is a self-described conservative Hispanic immigrant who came to the United States with a humanitarian visa 15 years ago, gained permanent residency and became a citizen. She also said the government needs to “create conditions to absorb all these people.”

“I did not come to this country demanding,” Ivester said. “I came to this country to learn and work to earn my right.“

Marta Nielsen said her views are generally liberal, and she’s disappointed with the Trump administration’s actions toward immigrants that are “giving validation to ideas in America that scare me, to be frank, ideas that immigrants are bad and people who are different are bad.”

The Mormon and Christian value of “loving your neighbor” guides her take on the issue. She believes DACA beneficiaries should be given the opportunity to chase the “American dream.”

“The moral code of our society calls for greater compassion than we‘re currently showing,” Nielsen said.

Another respondent, Rand Hollist, said his beliefs also generally align with the views expressed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said he’s seen the faith’s leaders intervene when proposed state legislation appears too “strict” on immigration.

”I don’t like things that break up families,” said Hollist, who described himself as “very moderate” in his political views.

In the poll, 69 percent of self-described “very active” members of the LDS Church supported letting DACA recipients stay.

Critics, though, say the DACA program was an overstep of former President Barack Obama’s executive authority. That includes all members of Utah’s congressional delegation who believe that Congress should be the one to act.

Lawmakers have offered a number of proposals similar to DACA meant to create an alternative to the program, which expires in March.

Love said the Dream Act, a longstanding bill, provides for too long of a path to citizenship for younger immigrants. She instead backs the RAC Act, which allows these immigrants five years to fulfill necessary work, military or schooling requirements before receiving a green card, the first step toward citizenship.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was an original sponsor of the Dream Act in 2001, which did not pass but would have allowed undocumented students to pursue an education. He last month joined onto a Republican-led effort, known as the SUCCEED Act, that proposes rigorous vetting requirements for young immigrants to “earn the right to citizenship” over a 15-year period.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, supports two other iterations — the BRIDGE Act and the ENLIST Act — that would offer temporary relief from deportation with “provisional protected presence” and work permits.