It was the last ditch attempt to save a program that gives them peace of mind, according to march organizer and undocumented immigrant Paul Quinonez.
“I couldn't afford this privilege and opportunity because I was undocumented, and I knew this and my family knew this but no one else could know this,” Quinonez said, explaining he grew up in a farming community in Eastern Washington where his peers would often take trips to Mexico.
He and about a hundred youth marched from Sturgus Park to Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s Chinatown International District on Tuesday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of DACA.
Along the way, protesters chanted “Undocumented! Unafraid!” and blocked the intersection of S. Jackson and 12th Ave S. for more than 10 minutes. As cars honked, a few speakers told their stories of coming to the United States.
“I'm from Guatemala. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 12 years old. I knew I was undocumented right away because I overstayed my visa,” said Alejandra, who declined to give her last name. “DACA got me my first full time job and just bought my first home with my family. So we need to fight for it and protect it and fight for all access for undocumented people.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is currently under threat, as 10 states including Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia have demanded that President Trump end the program by Sep. 5. They will drop threats of a lawsuits against the federal government if he does.
The result would impact Washington, home to an estimated 43,000 people currently eligible for DACA. Approximately 12,000 reside in King County; 4,000 in Snohomish County; 4,000 in Pierce County and 6,000 in Yakima County, according to Migration Policy Institute data from 2016.
If the administration axes the Obama-era program, DACA recipients would lose deportation protections.
DACA recipients or Dreamers, as their commonly known as, are young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Under DACA, they have been able to pursue college educations and professional careers.
Critics say DACA gives amnesty or blanket pardon for illegal aliens.
“I do consider the U.S. my home because I've lived here for a long time, but I just wish it would consider me one of its own as well,” said Guillermo Mogollan, a University of Washington student who was raised in Mount Vernon and hopes to run for City Council someday.
The march comes after another DACA march in Oregon on Monday, and coincides with several rallies across the county on Tuesday.
Former Seattle mayoral candidate Nikita Oliver gave her concession speech and then came to give the final rally speech: “Every good thing that has ever happened in this city has not been because elected officials decided it was the right thing to do. It was because white folks, wealthy folks listened to communities of color, told them this is what we need and mobilized and pushed the elected to do the right thing.”