President Donald Trump threatened a government shutdown and blamed Democrats for immigration problems linked to crime.
Meanwhile, supporters of DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created under President Barack Obama — rallied Wednesday around the country, urging support for students known as Dreamers.
At Sacramento State, University President Robert Nelsen put his signature on a petition to Congress, urging lawmakers to take action before 2017 ends.
“It’s extremely important that we take care of these 800,000 students that are out there,” Nelsen said.
He said the Dreamers “are productive” and that students “are going to graduate, are going to make a difference.”
“America has to have a heart,” Nelsen added. “And if we don’t have a heart, then we’re not America.”
Granting DACA recipients full legal status would benefit undocumented students like Fatima Diaz, who came to the United States as a child.
“I was 11 months old,” Diaz said. “Took my first steps here.”
Diaz fears deportation if Congress fails to come up with a solution for DACA before a March deadline.
“My work permit is expiring soon,” she said. “So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do after and it’s very important.”
It’s important too for Tomas Evangelista, who founded the group California Dreamers.
“We weren’t at fault for this and we’re done everything we could to be Americans,” Evangelista said. “We’ve done the right thing, gone to school, tried to make our communities better.”
Trump pushed back against Democrats in Congress supporting protection for Dreamers.
“They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime,” Trump said. “We don’t want to have that.”
Trump warned that any effort by Democrats to include DACA in a government funding measure could lead to a government shutdown.
“It could happen,” Trump said. “The Democrats are really looking for something that is very dangerous to our country.”
Meanwhile, DACA supporters held a demonstration outside Republican Rep. Jeff Denham’s office in Modesto, where they urged him to support the Dreamer program.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Denham said, “This DACA crisis, and it is a crisis, needs to get resolved immediately.”
Denham is one of 34 House Republicans urging his leadership for a vote on DACA.
“Certainly, we want to find a bipartisan solution and we definitely do not want to get into a debate about shutting the government down,” Denham said. “I think this is an opportunity for both parties to come together.”
Students are also putting pressure on Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents California’s sprawling 4th Congressional District, located in the foothills and mountains east of Sacramento.
In a statement, McClintock said any reform must include the building of a border wall, along with other security measures.
“DACA should be ended immediately,” McClintock said. “Those currently enrolled in the program should be granted legal residency if they have no criminal convictions in their background, if they are not affiliated with criminal gangs and if they have not previously been subject to a deportation order.”
Under Trump’s executive order, the DACA program is being phased out and is set to expire in March. Congress has three months to find a legislative solution.