KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Kalamazoo protesting the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"We’re rallying here at Bronson Park today in order to completely reject the news from DACA [that] came out today," said Nelly Fuentes of the Cosecha Movement. "It's an inhumane, total inhumane move from the government."
The Trump administration announced Tuesday it's phasing out DACA and leaving it to Congress to come up with an alternative. The program shields from deportation hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.
"Your humanity does not lie on a nine-digit number," said Fuentes. "Your humanity lies within you, and it lies within your community. We are here for you. Your community is here for you."
The crowd roared "Si Se Puede" and other chants and listened to people speak about how the DACA decision impacted their lives. The rally turned into a march and subsequent protest when the crowd made their way down Michigan Avenue and stopped in the middle of Westnedge blocking the road.
Hundreds of protesters stood in the intersection of Michigan and Westnedge forcing bumper-to-bumper traffic for almost a mile. A group of eight people formed a human chain in the middle of the crowd carrying a sign that read 800,00 Lives which referred to the number of people involved in the DACA program currently. Drivers honked their horns and shouted from their windows in frustration of what was going on. Some even diverted into a nearby car dealership to get away from the protest.
"Kalamazoo’s not going to stand for that," said Fuentes. "DACA students, undocumented immigrants need to have full rights as any other human being does."
Trump says he has a "great love" for the young immigrants protected by the DACA program. But his decision was met with shock, anger and a sense of betrayal by its beneficiaries, often called "Dreamers."
"They are human beings and that is exactly why we need to stand up for them," said Fuentes. "They are Americans in heart, in soul, in every other way except in paper. And that needs to change."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.