Phoenix — Corporate executives, Roman Catholic bishops, celebrities, and immigrants have become unlikely companions in an effort to pressure national leaders to save an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation.
Immigrant groups have been staging daily protests in the scorching Phoenix heat, mobilizing people with phone banks in California, and demonstrating outside House Speaker Paul Ryan’s church and office.
Roman Catholic archbishops around the country have been sending letters urging the president to maintain the program. The CEOs of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Starbucks and others also joined the effort, saying the economy will take a hit if the program is eliminated.
The campaign comes as President Donald Trump is weighing whether to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to remain in the U.S. and legally work. The White House says Trump is expected to announce the decision Tuesday.
“We love the dreamers, we love everybody,” Trump told reporters Friday, using a shorthand term for the young people who were given a reprieve from deportation and temporary work permits under the DACA program.
Immigrants are bracing for the prospect of losing their jobs as their work permits end and possible deportation if the president does away with the program.
Eli Oh of San Jose, California, said he was among the first to apply for the program after working as a waiter under the table to pay for his nursing degree.
Oh, 30, has lived in the United States for nearly two decades since his Korean parents overstayed their visa. He works as a rapid response nurse in Northern California, where he responds to hospital emergencies, and fears he’ll be unemployed if his work permit goes away.
“I went from saving lives at a hospital and delivering health care, and now I am like, I might have to drive Uber to pay rent,” he said.
Trump railed against the Obama program on the campaign trail, calling it illegal “amnesty.”
Republican officials from 10 states have threatened to bring a lawsuit to stop the program, giving the Trump administration a Sept. 5 deadline to act.
To qualify, immigrants must have no criminal records and proof that they were brought to the U.S. before they reached age 16. Their work permits and protection from deportation must be renewed every two years.
Applying for the program costs nearly $500, and most applicants hire attorneys to help them navigate the complicated process. It takes several weeks or months for the government to review applications.
The issue is especially prominent in California, home to one of every four people covered by the program. In L.A., immigrant advocates have planned a week of scripted phone calls, demonstrations and meetings with lawmakers.
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