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Latinos root for Trump reversal on DACA
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Felipa Graham, owner of Botanica Ortencia on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville, said she's praying that God touches President Donald Trump's heart so he will make a deal with congressional Democrats on the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. - photo by Carlos Galarza

Many in the local Latino community don’t know what to make of the apparent about-face on the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program by President Donald Trump.

The president has gone from rescinding on Sept. 5 the Obama-era executive order creating DACA — a program allowing some 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the United States as minors to remain here and work — to last week negotiating with Democrat leaders in Congress a possible deal that would save DACA.

Trump’s initial action that put so many young immigrants at risk of deportation drew condemnation from many circles and sparked widespread demonstrations, including in Gainesville, which has a large Latino population. A group of young Latinos gathered on a visible corner at E.E. Butler and Jesse Jewell parkways holding signs in defense of immigrants and waving to passing motorists.

In the wake of the president’s apparent willingness to negotiate a deal on DACA, Latinos are cheering on Trump.

Felipa Graham, who owns and operates Botanica Ortencia on Atlanta Highway — a store that sells home remedies and religious relics — is one of those now rooting for Trump.

“This country needs workers, and those young people are good workers,” Graham said. “The president would show a good heart if he helped them.”

Graham is a native of Durango, Mexico, and became an American citizen by marriage. Although Graham and her daughters, Norma and Vanessa, consider themselves fortunate to claim this country as their home legally, their hearts go out to those who have yet to attain legal status and live in fear of deportation.

“I hope God will touch Trump’s heart and that politicians will reach an agreement that won’t take away the dreams of these young people,” Graham said.

Although no bipartisan proposal on DACA is on the table, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, indicated he’s willing to work with all his colleagues on a solution.

“The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival memo is unconstitutional and unkind, and President Trump was right to rescind it,” Collins said in a statement issued by his office. “President Obama gave false hope and bad advice to people looking to call America home. Instead of working with Congress to find a real solution, he chose an unconstitutional one.

“While the conversation between the president and minority leaders reached no agreement, I look forward to working with all my colleagues toward an immigration solution that considers every dimension of the system and moves us forward,” Collins added. “Americans want an immigration system that is strong, fair, clear and compassionate, and so do I.”

The office of U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., told The Times that the senator is focused on his RAISE Act — Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment — legislation Perdue co-sponsored with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas. The bill would give priority to the best skilled immigrants from around the world, while reducing overall immigration by half over a 10-year period.

During a White House news briefing Friday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referenced the RAISE Act as one of the principles the Trump Administration will push in any negotiations on DACA, along with massive border security, an end to sanctuary cities and adding more immigration judges.

Joel Arteaga and his family have lived in Gainesville for 28 years and is the owner of La Flor de Jalisco Mexican Restaurant on Atlanta Highway. Arteaga said the majority of those protected by DACA are hard workers trying to make the most of the opportunity that’s been given them, and he too is hoping Trump carries through with a deal to save the program..

“It would be very sad for those families and young people if they are not given the chance to achieve their goals in this country,” Arteaga said. 

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