YAKIMA — When state Attorney General Bob Ferguson stopped in Yakima on Monday to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he was surprised by the engagement he received from the community.
Ferguson drew cheers from the crowd often as he explained how confident his office is in its many lawsuits against the Trump administration, including one that seeks to block DACA from being scrapped.
“It was inspiring,” Ferguson said of the crowd. “I had no idea so many people would show up.”
Ferguson participated in “The Future of DACA: A Conversation with Attorney Bob Ferguson,” an event moderated by Wapato native Enrique Cerna of KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle.
More than 200 people attended the event held at the Yakima Valley Museum to learn more about Ferguson’s legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s efforts to end the DACA program, which allows young people brought to the U.S. as children to work and attend school here without fear of deportation.
There are some 18,000 people protected under DACA in Washington alone, and about 800,000 nationwide.
The discussion opened with video interviews of several students protected under DACA, also known as Dreamers, explaining how they are trying to build a life for themselves and making contributions to the community along the way.
A young woman told how at age 11 her parents brought her from Mexico to Quincy, where they labored in fields while she went to school and eventually graduated nursing school. Now she works for Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee.
“I wish (Trump) could walk a day in the shoes of those students you just watched,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson explained intricacies of several lawsuits involving DACA, and how federal judges thus far have ruled against the Trump administration.
Washington is among 15 states suing the Trump administration to keep DACA from being scrapped.
Ferguson assured the crowd that his office is confident in its legal strategy, arguing that the Trump administration has not followed proper administrative process in ending the program because it has failed to provide evidence that the program is unconstitutional nor any tangible reason for ending it.
Ferguson also explained how he’s leveraging his legal argument on a federal law that protects the interests of small businesses.
“Many have hired Dreamers, invested in Dreamers,” he said.
Afterward, Ferguson fielded questions from several in the audience asking about when the legal challenge to DACA would finally be decided, what would happen to the parents of those protected under DACA and to youths who have yet to apply for the program.
Ferguson sees the case winding through the appeals process and eventually landing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year.
“I would imagine any final decision on this is several months away,” he said.
Ferguson said his office in conjunction with the other states involved in the lawsuit is refining its strategy as the case moves forward, and that they are unified in their legal fight.
“We’re not messing around,” he said. “We take this very seriously.”
Not everyone praised Ferguson. One man jeered at times with outbursts describing undocumented people as “illegals.” Afterward the man walked up to Ferguson and pointed in his face while he spoke. A security officer followed the man.
But most in crowd embraced the visit. Many lined up to shake his hand and take photos with him.
Yakima Valley College student Jeff Ruiz, 23, said he’s glad Ferguson came to Yakima for the discussion.
“It’s kind of a personal issue for me too,” said Ruiz, a U.S. citizen from Wapato. His parents are from Mexico but became citizens many years ago he said. The issue, Ruiz said, affects many immigrants not just those of Mexican descent.
“I have friends of Filipino descent being affected by this,” he said. “This issue is really charged here. A lot of students that do go here, Heritage University, YVC, a lot of them are undocumented.”
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