About 100 protesters gathered outside the Mt. Lebanon office of Rep. Tim Murphy Wednesday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Children's Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA.
The crowd called on the Republican congressman to defend the program which grants protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday the program would expire in six months. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) condemned the Trump administration for the decision. U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) spoke out in support of ending DACA.
Rep. Murphy released a statement Monday afternoon that said while he does "not support deporting children who have no home but the United States," he thinks people who "have entered the country unlawfully should not be permitted to stay."
Angel Gober, an organizer with One Pennsylvania, an activist group focused on economic justice and political participation, said Wednesday that politicians like Murphy have a duty to protect minorities in their communities.
"I want them to really step out on a limb for our black and brown people," Gober said. "It's really scary to think about this administration being so harmful to young people of color in this country."
Murphy has had a nearly identical voting record to the President's since Trump took office in January. Erin Kramer, the group's executive director, said rescinding DACA would upend thousands of lives.
"You can't even begin to deal with day-to-day problems when leaving your home puts you at risk of being deported to a country you're not really from," Kramer said.
U.S. Census data show the nation has about 800,000 DACA recipients nationwide. About 5,900 reside in Pennsylvania, and all would be at risk of deportation if the Obama-era program ends.
Protesters also gathered outside of Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's office in Harrisburg Wednesday, including Magdalena Perez, who is undocumented.
Her 23-year-old daughter, who arrived in the United States from Mexico 15 years ago, received nearly all her education in the country. For the past few years, the young woman has been protected from deportation under DACA. But speaking through translator Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, Perez said now, she’s afraid for her daughter.
“No, no—pienso que no,” Perez said when asked if her daughter would be able to find work in Mexico.
“She doesn’t think that she’d be able to make a life there,” Walther-Rodriguez clarified.
Perez spoke from outside Toomey’s office, where she was rallying with a small group from pro-immigration reform organization CASA.
Toomey supports the repeal, and has said President Barack Obama didn’t have legal authority to create DACA. He has said young immigrants should be “accommodated,” but government still should crack down on stopping sanctuary cities, border security, and companies that hire undocumented workers.
Walther-Rodriguez, a CASA organizer based in Maryland, said if Republicans on the federal level won’t support DACA, state and local officials should start doing so. And she added, there needs to be an overall change in the tone of immigration discussions.
“It’s really important, now more than ever, that they speak publicly against all of the negative commentary that the Trump administration has been doing against our immigrant community,” she said, referencing disparaging comments Trump has made about Mexican immigrants, among others.
Some Pennsylvania officials have already pushed back on the repeal in some capacity. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday that the commonwealth is joining 13 other states in suing the federal government in an effort to keep DACA in place.
*UPDATED: Sept. 7 to include commentary from DACA supporters at Sen. Toomey's office.