Hundreds gather at candlelight vigil in Ohio City to support DACA, immigrants

Hundreds gather at candlelight vigil in Ohio City to support DACA, immigrants

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - About 300 people gathered in Ohio City Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in support of DACA.

President Trump announced this week he will end the program that protects about 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The DACA program does not provide a path to citizenship.

DACA recipients were brought to the United States as children, and they are often called Dreamers.

Dreamers stood together in the rain telling their stories Thursday.

Supporters and other immigrants held up signs in support.

Dreamers say they will keep fighting to stay here in the United States because it's home.

Jose Mendez, 25, was born in Mexico.

"I came here at the age of seven in 2001," he said.

He's a DACA recipient and he says he worked hard for it.

To enroll in DACA, he had to undergo extensive background checks.

"We do FBI, fingerprinting, biometrics," he said.

He and other recipients also had to meet a lot of other criteria.

"We study here, we know the language, we have degrees," Mendez said.

Dreamers like Mendez were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

They were young at the time, and many of them don't remember much about where they were born.

"I work for a security company. I actually am a security guard. I protect American citizens for a living. That's ironic, right? We are here and we are contributing to society," Mendez said.

Vanessa Aguilera, 24, is also a Dreamer.

She came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 10 years old.

"When people tell us to go back, it's really hard, because we don't know what to go back to," she said.

Aguilera says she knows English better than Spanish.

She grew up with American education, history and culture.

"We went to school with your children, we sat next to your children in the lunchroom. We did homework with your children," she said.

Aguilera hopes Congress can come up with a solution during the six month delay President Trump has in place before the program ends.

She joined other Dreamers Thursday night, telling her story in public for the first time.

Immigrants from groups like Dream Activist Ohio and Ohio's Voice and other supporters lit candles and cheered.

"I really think that educating people on what DACA is will change their perspective on us. People have the wrong idea about who we are, and what we're doing here," Aguilera said.

About 5,000 Ohioans are DACA recipients.

They contribute more than $14 million in state and local taxes every year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

On Wednesday, Governor John Kasich said "This is not the America that we all love. This is a melting pot."

He invited Dreamers to come live in Ohio, saying "we know how much they contribute to America."

U.S. Representative Pat Tiberi, a Republican from Columbus, released a statement saying President Trump did the right thing in getting rid of DACA:

"President Obama's unconstitutional DACA program was one of the most egregious examples of his executive overreach. The Trump administration's decision to phase out DACA is good news for the rule of law," Congressman Tiberi said.

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