Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
About a dozen protesters gathered outside the Grayson County Courthouse Friday in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced plans to rescind the immigration policy, which grants a two-year window of deferred action from deportation to certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.
The protest was organized by Vicky Sosa who said she wants to protest for friends and family who used the DACA program to stay in the U.S. Sosa said she was fortunate enough to be born in the United States, but many of her loved ones were not as lucky.
“I think it is important to keep it in place because by removing it, you are taking education, taking lives, away from innocent people who came here simply for the American dream,” she said while holding the American flag over her shoulder.
In announcing the change, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the program, which was instituted by executive under then-President Barack Obama is unconstitutional
“We are a people of compassion and we are a people of law,” Sessions said. “But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws.”
The Trump administration has given Congress six months to address the problem legislatively.
On Friday, the protesters marched around the courthouse carrying signs with slogans including, “Education not Deportation,” and, “Their dream is now a nightmare.” Others waved both the American and Mexican flags while chanting, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”
In response many drivers passing by honked in support, while a few screamed back, “Go back to Mexico!”
“I think it is just based on hatred, racism,” Sosa said. “Why would you ruin innocent lives?”
The DACA program was established in 2012 under Obama and allows individuals who immigrated to the U.S. as minors without proper documentation to receive renewable two-year deferrals from deportation and eligibility for work permits. Applicants for the program must pass background checks. The individuals in the program have been nicknamed dreamers, a reference to the 2001 Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, bill that never made its way through the U.S. Congress.
The New York Times reported this week that an estimated 800,000 young adults under the program will be eligible for deportation as their work permits and other paperwork expires.
Among those protesting Friday was 18-year-old Kathia Suarez, who came to the United States when she was only two years old. Suarez said she is currently taking a semester off from studying nursing at Grayson College.
Suarez said her parents came to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, seeking to give her a better life. In the current political climate, Suarez said, her parents are more worried about her than they are for themselves.
“It is hard because they want to throw us back to a country we never knew,” she said. “Our only un-American thing is our birth certificate.”
Suarez said she recently renewed her registration under DACA and was waiting for the paperwork. As a part of the process, she said she had her fingerprints taken a couple weeks ago.
Marcos Salazar, who protested while wearing a graduation cap and honors cords, said his parents brought him to the United States when he was just three years old. Now, as an adult, he is studying at Grayson College to be a teacher.
“This is my only home,” he said. “When I saw the news, I was shocked, I was sad, I was scared.”
While he is uncertain of his future, Salazar said he is prepared to move elsewhere if a solution to the DACA problem is not found. Salazar said he renewed his status in early 2016, leaving him with less than a year left on his deferral.
“It will hurt me to leave this country I have known, but if I have to, I would,” he said.