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DACA Recipients, Filled With Anger And Optimism, Plan For A Fight

Hours after DACA recipients learned of the Trump administration's plan to phase out the program shielding them from deportation, some of them gathered for a rally in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood.

There, they began planning for the weeks and months ahead.

Some of the young undocumented immigrants, brought to this country as children, expressed a sense of outrage and betrayal at their government.

"Today, we witnessed the murder of a program that has allowed 800,000 of us to thrive in this country," said Paul Quinonez, a DACA recipient who lives in Seattle. "The coward in the White House didn't even have the courage to face us."

Quinonez was referring to the televised announcement of the DACA phase-out, made earlier that day by Attorney General Jeff Sessions rather than by President Donald Trump. 

But the rally was also filled with optimism.

DACA recipients expressed hope they could pressure Congress to replace DACA, created five years ago by an Obama administration executive order, with a more permanent bill or even comprehensive immigration reform. 

DACA Rally
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX
Children and adults gather Tuesday afternoon at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle in support of DACA.

All 12 members of Washington state's congressional delegation, Democrats and Republicans, have expressed support for a bill protecting DACA recipients from deportation. 

Amy Kele, a 20-year-old DACA recipient born in the Fiji Islands, said she doesn't plan to live her life any differently, even though her protections are set to expire within the next few months.

"To be honest, I'm just going to keep it moving," she said. "That's all I can do. And just say a prayer and walk out the door and go do my normal routine."

That means working as a caretaker at a nursing home and studying biomedical engineering at UW Bothell.

But she also plans to get more involved in political activism by adding her voice to calls for comprehensive immigration reform. 

Fears were present at the rally, too. 

Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, 23, said her biggest worry is the mounds of personal information she and her fellow DACA recipients handed to federal authorities during the application process.

Unless Congress acts, DACA recipients could be targeted for deportation as soon as next year.

"Not only is it our information out there, but it's the information of where we have lived with our families, where we have worked with our families and community," she said. "That has been a really deep sense of urgency." 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.