WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville City Council unanimously voiced its support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Tuesday, joining numerous cities across the country in reaction to President Donald Trump’s decision to end the program.
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.
On Sept. 5, Trump announced he would end the program, and people already enrolled in DACA will remain covered until their permits expire. If that happens before March 5, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5.
The resolution passed Tuesday declares Watsonville a “Dreamers City,” in reference to the DREAM Act, an amnesty bill for undocumented immigrants that was rejected by lawmakers numerous times. The resolution also urges Trump and other legislators to continue and codify the DACA program.
Councilwoman Rebecca Garcia requested the resolution be amended to include language that advocates for a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers.”
Councilman Felipe Hernandez said a “hateful movement” from Trump has targeted young students who came to this country “through no will of their own.”
“We have to protect them,” he said. “They are the future of Watsonville.”
Councilman Jimmy Dutra cited a recent incident in Houston, Texas, when two undocumented immigrants, one of them a DACA recipient, died trying to save people from rising floods during Hurricane Harvey.
“How do we turn our backs on people that are willing to give their lives for their country?” he said.
Nancy Park of Santa Cruz, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Korea, said while there are many Dreamers who lead successful lives, there are many others who are struggling.
“The approach is not to shut them out, it’s to take care of them,” she said.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Trump, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, Congressman Jimmy Panetta and other state legislators.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council declared the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The day is meant to celebrate the region’s American Indian and indigenous community. It coincides with Columbus Day, a day that marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492.
In protest to the treatment of the indigenous populations during European colonization, many cities across the nation have recently replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, including Los Angeles.
Watsonville’s resolution does not replace Columbus Day.
Abel Mejia, social studies teacher at Watsonville High School, has been advocating for the council to declare an Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and collected 700 signatures of people in support.
“This resolution is pro-indigenous, and truthful and historically accurate,” he said.