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When will a humane decision be made?

Gloria M. Sandoval  |  Issue: September | October 2017

Immigrants are not footballs!

 

DREAMers organizing marching and protesting

CHICAGO: DREAMers have been organizing, marching and protesting for years to stay in a country that’s theirs, whether they have papers or not.
PHOTO: Adrian C. Garcia

 

On July 20, two U.S. senators, a Republican and a Democrat, introduced the DREAM Act of 2017 which would create a pathway to citizenship for thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as young children.

There have been many bipartisan attempts at passing the DREAM Act. Not to be confused with state-level DREAM acts which do not refer to immigration but which refer instead to higher education and which allow undocumented college students to pay regular in-state tuition.

Mitzi Castro is a dreamer who has lived in Arizona since she was a year old. Castro shares her comment about the DREAM Act: “I want to be excited. I think a lot of dreamers want to be excited about it,” said Castro. “It seems as if they’re just playing with us – our emotions and our lives – and it doesn’t feel good.”

DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals started in 2012. It has always been vulnerable due to the fact that this issue of immigration has netted political forces some benefits. In 2012 when President Obama was being pressured for his campaign promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, he gained some support for the Democratic Party and his administration by passing DACA instead of a comprehensive bill. This happened in light of immigration advocates’ criticism of Obama as Deporter in Chief, averaging 400,000 deportations per year.

Before leaving office, Obama’s administration tried to pass immigration enforcement policies – an Expanded DACA and DAPA. This action was challenged by 25 states led by Texas. The court challenge intended to stop implementation of DAPA which in turn would have provided deportation relief to about four million people. Reports said that Homeland Security failed to take the correct administrative steps and that states would be burdened with costs for driver’s licenses.

The challenge was heard by a Texas judge who had anti-immigrant tendencies. There was an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court which tied 4 to 4 (deceased Chief Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat was still vacant) and left the decision of the lower court in place.

At the end of June, a group of 10 state attorneys general led by Texas – all of them conservative Republicans – gave President Trump until September 5 to end DACA or the lawsuit to end the DACA program would be once again submitted to the Texas Southern District.

There have been other attempts such as the ACHIEVE Act of November 2012, which would permit certain individuals who entered the United States at an early age to obtain a new non-immigrant status. This is when Obama signed his executive orders.

There has been the BRIDGE Act of January 2017 which is designed to be a temporary solution for those currently protected under DACA, given the program’s uncertain future under the current administration.

Letters have been sent to President Trump to maintain and defend the 800,000 DACAmented young people. Studies show the positive effects of this program: Eighty-seven percent are employed, pay taxes, stimulate the economy and pursue higher education. California attorney general Xavier Becerra and 19 other attorneys general – all of them Democrats, by the way – are asking Trump to keep the program running.

Another letter submitted in January was signed by 868 national, state, and local religious, civil rights, ethnic, and immigrant-rights organizations requesting DACA not be ended. “Nearly 8 in 10 voters support allowing DREAMers to remain permanently in the country, including almost three-quarters of Trump voters and only 14% believe they should be forced to leave.” (Center for American Progress, A New Threat to DACA Could Cost States Billions of Dollars, July 21, 2017)

What is the main difference between the DACA and DREAM acts?

DACA only provides an opportunity to work, has to be renewed every two years with payment of $495. It had protected persons from being deported, but that is not true now since many are being deported for any minor contact with ICE.

The DREAM Act would provide the opportunity to get conditional permanent legal residency on the road to citizenship.

The dilemma is, will the remaining undocumented adults who are parents or relatives of DREAMers, some of them with up to 30 years in the United States, be hunted down and deported? The Democrats and Republicans are having fun tossing us around to divide and conquer us. It’s time to provide everyone the opportunity not to live in fear.

We must get involved in supporting the DREAMers, in opposing and resisting laws like Texas’ SB 4, in opposing the criminalization and separation of families and in continuing with acts of civil disobedience.

Wanting to work to support our families should not be a crime!

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