DACA hopes dashed, California students turn to Congress

Jane Meredith Adams / EdSource

Oakland Technical High School students rallied on behalf of the “Dreamer” students in 2016.

Immigrant rights advocates in California and across the country will work to push the Biden administration and Congress to pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, after a judge said the week last the illegal DACA.

Thousands of high school and college students in California lost hope of obtaining work permits and deportation protection when a federal judge on Friday barred the government from receiving new DACA applications.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, provides temporary protection against deportation and authorization to work for approximately 650,000 young people who came to the United States as children. The United States Supreme Court ruled last year that the Trump administration’s decision to stop the program was “arbitrary and capricious,” and around 300,000 people became eligible to apply for the DACA for the first time in December. This included some 55,500 people who turned 15, the minimum age to apply, since the government had stopped accepting new candidates. Yet the Supreme Court did not rule on the legality of the program in the first place.

Lawyers point to the latest ruling as evidence that the DACA does not go far enough as it does not provide beneficiaries with a path to lawful permanent residence or citizenship. The Obama administration launched the DACA in 2012 after Congress repeatedly failed to pass more comprehensive immigration reform. The program offers two-year permits and eviction protection, after which beneficiaries must apply for a renewal.

Credit: Inès Martinez

Ines Martinez turned 15 in 2017, just before the Trump administration stopped accepting new nominations for DACA.

19-year-old Ines Martinez submitted her DACA application in December, just after U.S. citizenship and immigration services began accepting new applications. A student at Cabrillo College in Aptos, near Santa Cruz, Martinez was not eligible for DACA before because when she started in 2012 she was not yet 15 and soon after she turned 15, the Trump administration has stopped accepting new applications.

Martinez learned that her application was received in January, and in June she was given an appointment to take fingerprints and photographs. Then on Friday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with Texas and eight other states and ruled that DACA was illegal because former President Barack Obama did not have the power to pass a such policy. He ordered the immigration agency to stop approving new applications.

When Martinez heard the news, she was shocked, then worried, then devastated.

“I had very high hopes. I was so close; I was really close to getting my DACA approved, ”Martinez said. “For that to happen, it was really frustrating.”

Without DACA, Martinez is not allowed to work legally in the United States and she lives with the constant fear of deportation. She arrived in the United States illegally at the age of 1 and has has lived in Santa Cruz ever since.

Immigrants who already have protection under the DACA will not be affected by the order and can still submit license renewal applications. The judge said that to keep the DACA in place, the Biden administration would have to seek public comment on the policy, among other actions.

A path to permanent residence and citizenship for young people brought to the United States as children enjoys broad support from Americans. About three-quarters of respondents to a Pew Research Center survey last year they said they approved a path to permanent legal status. To be eligible for the DACA, applicants must have arrived in the United States before turning 16 and living here since June 15, 2007, in addition to attending school or graduating from high school. and not to have been convicted of certain crimes.

The Biden administration is expected to appeal Friday’s decision.

Meanwhile, Martinez and his nationwide advocates say they are pushing for more permanent reform than DACA.

“Today’s decision is proof that DACA is not enough. The program has always been temporary, leaving hundreds of thousands of lives vulnerable to the next attack, ”said Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of the immigrant youth organization United We Dream, in a written statement. She also wrote: “Until President Biden and Congressional Democrats grant citizenship, the lives of millions of undocumented migrants remain on the line. Democrats must take the path to citizenship this year, not to apologies! “

“Make no mistake, Hanen’s decision today is an attack on hundreds of thousands of immigrants who see the United States as their homeland,” wrote Fatima Flores, political director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. , based in Los Angeles. “As a recipient of DACA, I am frustrated and angry that our lives are once again on fire. Congress must act immediately to protect our lives by including immigrants in the reconciliation. To my immigrant fellow citizens: a whole movement is standing by our side. We are not alone. To our families and allies: we need you to be relentless and fight in solidarity with us. The time to sit on the sidelines is over. We need everyone now.

Some California members of Congress have argued for immigration reform. Senator Alex Padilla called for a path to citizenship for essential workers, which was included in the budget resolution proposed by the Senate. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard sponsored a bill passed by the House of Representatives in March, known as the Dream and Promise Act, which would also pave the way for citizenship for young people, including those eligible for DACA.

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