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Rally outside Trump Tower to keep immigrant amnesty program

Activists on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2017 near Trump

Activists on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2017 near Trump Tower in Manhattan, show support for an Obama-era temporary amnesty program for young immigrants in the U.S. illegally President Trump has promised to cut. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

More than 1,000 demonstrators who want the Trump administration to maintain an Obama-era, indefinite amnesty program for young immigrants in the United States illegally picketed Tuesday near Trump Tower on the program’s fifth anniversary.

The protest — which splintered off and continued onto nearby streets, into the subway and through the night — came on the second day of Donald Trump’s first trip to his penthouse home since his January inauguration.

Although Trump has not “immediately” abandoned the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, as he promised during the 2016 campaign, organizers of Tuesday’s rally said they were worried he soon would.

“If he rescinds, takes it back, my fear is that I won’t continue school, and I won’t be able to continue to support myself,” said Angel Emmanuel Ortega Morales, 27, a program beneficiary whose mother crossed the Mexico-U.S. border illegally with him when he was 4.

Ortega Morales, of Long Island City, teaches Spanish and gym and coaches track and field at a Queens Catholic school. He said he signed up and was vetted in 2012, the year President Barack Obama enacted the program. Ortega Morales said he is studying for his master’s degree at Queens College, but won’t be able to continue working if Trump rolls back the temporary amnesty program, “which means I won’t be able to afford to go to school.”

Around him were demonstrators, many carrying signs.

“HERE TO STAY” one sign said. Read another: “UNDOCUMENTED... AFRAID... BUT STILL BRAVE.”

Starting at 5 p.m., the activists chanted and sang in a police pen on Fifth Avenue between 54th and 55th streets, blocks from Trump Tower.

Small skirmishes broke out after Trump supporters, about a dozen of them, heckled the amnesty demonstrators, shouting “USA!” before NYPD officers sent them to a separate area across Fifth Avenue. The two sides continued to shout at each other through the night.

The Trump foes’ splinter protests moved beyond immigration to abuse of force by police, abortion rights, and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

The amnesty program applies to immigrants living in the United States illegally, who came to the country before their 16th birthday and were younger than 31 before a 2012 deadline, haven’t been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanors, and are in school or graduated, or are honorably discharged veterans of the armed forces.

There are about 750,000 people covered under the program. Trump has called his decision about what do to “very, very hard.”

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors stricter immigration enforcement, said blame for the young people’s situation lies with their families.

“In all other areas of laws, when parents violate laws and there are adverse consequences to children or other family members, we hold the people who knowingly violated the laws accountable for those consequences,” Mehlman said in an interview.

Foes of the program — enacted in 2012 by executive order — point to a quotation from Obama, before he apparently changed his mind and backed temporary amnesty: “For me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates,” Obama said, “would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”

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