Letting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program expire would harm hundreds of local families and strip the Las Vegas community of some its most contributing members, argued demonstrators at a central valley gathering Monday.
About three dozen Las Vegas immigrants, supporters and elected officials — some with faces painted and veiled — rallied at the corner of Sahara Avenue and Rancho Drive on the date the federal program that has allowed an estimated 13,000 to 20,000 people to continue living in Nevada was once set to expire.
“We’re here in solidarity to support our immigrant community,” said Leo Murrieta, president of Make the Road Nevada, a political organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants. “And we’re not going anywhere.”
A longtime immigrant activist, Murrieta, 31, has been working in political activism to improve opportunities for those not born in the U.S. but who still live and contribute here.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last September the program would be rescinded — less than a month after it celebrated its five-year anniversary on Aug. 15.
More than 800,000 DACA beneficiaries, known also as Dreamers, had been awarded a temporary stay in the United States.
As marchers Monday headed down Rancho hoisting a symbolic coffin, demonstrators held a megaphone that blared recorded testimonies of other Las Vegas DACA recipients on how the program allowed them to live the American dream. Passing motorists honked and waved in support.
“The collective lack of action has been dangerous for so many people in this country,” said Caitlin Roach, 29, holding a sign saying “my husband is an immigrant” in Spanish. “We want immigrants to know we love them and they belong here.”
The Department of Homeland Security said they’d stop processing new applications for the program, and more than 600,000 current Dreamers will have their legal stay in the U.S. revoked by 2019 unless Congress passes a law by Monday allowing them to stay.
But federal judges in the months that followed ordered DHS to continue renewing all existing DACA permits. The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear a challenge of the ruling from the Trump administration and bypass appellate courts, making Monday’s original deadline null. While federal lawmakers now have more time to pass a legislative solution, negotiations for the expiring program have not progressed since September.
For Murrieta, the symbolism of Monday’s date was enough to take to the streets. Until Congress and President Donald Trump take action, he said, they’ll continue to protest.
“We need to be prepared,” he said. “This fight is not over.”