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Protesters near Trump Tower rally in support of DACA

A protest near Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue

A protest near Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan aims to defend DACA and TPS, two immigration programs organizers say are at risk under President Donald Trump's administration. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Activists who want the Trump administration to maintain an Obama-era temporary amnesty program for young immigrants living illegally in the United States picketed near Trump Tower on the program’s fifth anniversary.

Although President Donald Trump, who is currently staying in Trump Tower, has not kept his campaign promise to “immediately” abandon the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Tuesday’s rally organizers said they are worried that the president will eventually do so.

“If he rescinds, takes it back, my fear is that I won’t continue school, and I won’t be able to continue to support myself,” said Angel Emmanuel Ortega Morales, a program beneficiary whose mother crossed the Mexico-U.S. border illegally with him when he was 4.

Ortega Morales, 27, of Long Island City, teaches Spanish and gym at a Catholic school, and coaches track and field. He signed up for DACA and was vetted in 2012, the year Obama enacted the program.

“I won’t be able to continue working, which means I won’t be able to afford to go to school,” said Morales, who is studying for a master’s degree at Queens College.

Hundreds of activists chanted slogans like “When they say go back, we say fight back,” in police pens along Fifth Avenue stretching between 53rd and 55th streets, just blocks from Trump Tower.

Signs that said, “Resist,” “Here to stay,” “Undocumented afraid but still brave” and “Immigrant rights are human rights” peppered the lively crowd.

DACA applies to immigrants who are living in the United States illegally, who came to the country before their 16th birthday, who were younger than 31 before 2012, haven’t been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanors, and are in school, graduated from school or are honorably discharged veterans of the armed forces or Coast Guard.

There are about 750,000 people covered under the program. Trump has called his decision about what do to “very, very hard.”

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors stricter immigration enforcement, said blame for the young people’s situation lies with their families.

“In all other areas of laws, when parents violate laws and there are adverse consequences to children or other families members we hold the people who knowingly violated the laws accountable for those consequences,” he said.

Foes of the program -- enacted in 2012 by executive order -- point to a quotation from then-President Barack Obama, before he apparently changed his mind: “... For me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”

About a dozen Trump supporters heckled the immigration rally, shouting “USA!” before NYPD officers sent them to a separate pen across Fifth Avenue.

The group splintered soon after the rally ended, with some marching up Fifth Avenue and picketing in front of Tommy Hilfiger and Stuart Weitzman and about 30 people who went to the nearby 53rd Street-Fifth Avenue subway station.

Trump, who arrived in the city Monday night to a chorus of boos and chants of, “Not my president,” signed a new executive order inside Trump Tower Tuesday, aimed at easing the permitting process for major infrastructure projects.

“Our infrastructure will again be the best,” Trump said, noting that the current infrastructure was comparable to that of “a Third World country.”

However, the news conference was derailed when the president was asked about the violent clashes between white supremacists and politically left protesters in Charlottesville over the weekend.

With Ivan Pereira and Lauren Cook


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