WATSONVILLE — Watsonville resident Ana Garcia is attending Cabrillo College and working a full-time job, all with the hopes of eventually becoming a nurse.
But that hope was cast into uncertainty Tuesday when President Donald Trump announced plans to end the program that allows Garcia to legally work and go to college.
Garcia, 21, joined a crowd of nearly 200 people in Watsonville who were protesting the decision.
Trump’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program affects an estimated 787,580 people who have benefitted from the program.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she said. “I don’t have a plan.”
Ana Renteria, 23, said that DACA has allowed her to attend Monsbey College and work as a caregiver. Like Garcia, she does not know if Trump’s decision will end in deportation.
Renteria also said that her options would be limited if that happens.
“My only option is not to leave,” she said. “Just stay here and keep fighting.”
The DACA program, created by President Barack Obama in 2012, allows people who immigrated illegally with their parents before their 16th birthday, and who have a clear criminal record, to be protected from deportation and obtain a work permit.
But opponents say the program was unconstitutional, and an overreach of presidential authority.
Congressional lawmakers have six months to create a new plan.
Royal Oaks resident Jaime Cortez said he came to the gathering to support those affected by the decision.
Cortez called the move by the White House unnecessarily punitive.
“The decision should have been creating a pathway to citizenship,” he said. “I don’t see how this is going to help anything.”
Emily Halbig, who teaches at New School Community Day School, said she came to support her students.
Halbig added that migrant families need a comprehensive package of legislation that will help them make a living.
“We need more than just DACA,” she said
Demonstrations also occurred in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Salinas.
California State Treasurer John Chiang said he was in Monterey on other business, and said he turned down an invitation to attend a demonstration in Sacramento in favor of the Watsonville event.
“We are going to send a powerful message to the White House that they are not going to divide the Watsonville family, they are not going to divide the California family, they are not going to divide the American family,” he said.
Watsonville Immigration Lawyer Doug Keegan, who serves as program director for the Santa Cruz County Immigration Project, said that organization is ready to help DACA recipients understand and deal with the fallout from the decision.
According to Keegan, DACA recipients whose work permits will expire before March have until Oct. 5 to renew them.
“We want every young person to have the opportunity to have a great future, to be able to use their skills and talent to achieve the American dream,” Keegan said. “Even though this program will be phased out, it’s so important that our congress gets the message.”
Watsonville City Councilman Felipe Hernandez said he was “disheartened” by Trump’s announcement, and said that many of the DACA recipients attend universities and hold steady jobs.