Update: Immigrants, advocates navigating post-DACA-deadline landscape

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — The last government shutdown — well, threatened shutdown, anyway —
seems so long ago.

nine-hour “funding lapse” of Feb. 9, like the three-day shutdown that began
Jan. 20, hinged on how Congress was going to address the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals program that President Donald Trump said he would end March 5. He also called on Congress to pass a measure to save the program, created in 2012 by President Barack Obama via executive order.

In the
January shutdown, Democratic lawmakers backed down on their threat to keep the
government closed until a DACA deal was reached. In the February funding lapse,
Democrats and Republicans agreed to conduct a debate and vote on DACA in the
weeks to come, as a six-week continuing resolution to keep the government
funded through March 23 was overshadowed by the $1 trillion spending package of
which it was a part.

The congressional
sidestepping of DACA prompted the U.S. bishops to declare a “National Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers” for Feb. 26, one week before the program’s expiration date. The day
resulted in thousands of phone calls to lawmakers.

in turn, was overshadowed by the Supreme Court declining that same day a request by the administration to bypass federal appellate courts and rule on whether the administration has the right to shut down DACA.

The justices’ action wiped out the March 5 deadline date, leaving DACA up and
running at least until the high court accepts the case for the appeals court — and possibly renders a decision — or until Congress finally deals with it. The high court’s action
only keeps DACA intact for those currently with DACA status; two federal judges have blocked Trump, saying the administration must continue to accept renewal applications for the program. The rulings do not make
DACA available to those who had not already applied for it.

the exact path ahead is unclear, at least there is a path.

think a lot of people feel a little insecure, they don’t feel safe and they’re unsure
what’s going to happen because things are up in the air,” said Michelle
Sardone, director of strategic initiatives for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

feeling fear about whether or not to apply: ‘Will the government use information
they have on me to use against me?’ If you submit your application with the application
fee, will it be adjudicated or … will it be a waste of your money?” Sardone
said. “Each person has a particular case. They should go to an accredited legal
services provider to find out the best situation for them and for their family.”

just buried a man in his 60s who came from Ireland in a house with no
electricity, no plumbing. He came over to the U.S. without a trade, became a pipe fitter
and a coach,” said Mary Harkenrider, a member of the Southside Catholic Peace
and Justice Committee in Chicago, which sponsored a forum March 1 to show support
for the city’s DACA holders.

In talking to Catholic News Service, she used the example of this Irishman to illustrate what immigrants bring to this country.

“As a coach
and a family man, he affected people throughout the city and across the country
and at his funeral there were thousands of people who pay respect to this
immigrant, who came to this country without a STEM education or highly advanced
skills,” Harkenrider added. 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some arguing for the reform of U.S. immigration laws say preference should be given to the highly educated immigrants.

She added: “We would be amiss without the talents of the
immigrants in our communities. … whether it’s the Irish or the Polish or the
Hispanic. I think we have to continue to recognize our history and build on it.”

Harkenrider said, is “a city of immigrants.”

Nor is Chicago
the only town that can claim that mantle.

New Jersey, is such a town. Mexican-born Monica Perez Reyes, 20, has lived
there since her parents brought her to the United States at age 2. They entered the country without legal documents. She has kid
sisters born in the United States who are U.S. citizens. As for Perez, “I’m
good for two years” with DACA.

She admits
to frustration with Congress, though. “I’m kind of offended. They’re sort of
playing around with my future,” she said. “And the manner they’re handling it,
one day they may say they’ll do something to make it better like have a path to
citizens, ship, but the next day they say they’re going to terminate it altogether.”

added, “I know some people are scared, but I’m not necessarily scared unless
something is set in stone. I have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C. If worse comes
to worst, I have a plan; I’ll have to go to Mexico and make my new life there.”

She was
accepted to study art at a California college, but her status as an immigrant without documents left her ineligible to receive scholarship money. So Perez is attending
community college in Camden while planning to major in art therapy, working to
make money to pay her tuition.

Another such town of immigrants is Pasadena,
Maryland. Hector Guzman, 19, also born in Mexico, was
brought here by his parents, he said, when he was 1 year old. A soccer goalie
and midfielder, a German scout recommended he go to England to try out for
professional soccer there. He had to decline. “I could get there on my Mexican
passport, but I couldn’t come back,” he said.

has his own plan B. Like Perez’s, it involves going to a community college and
working as a butcher and chef to pay tuition. He’ll add landscaping work as the
weather warms. He’s starting up a small business already. At some point, he
said, he’d like to open a restaurant, maybe several of them, “and maybe have a
ranch or a farm.” He said the DACA process was easy.

Zapor, a CLINIC spokeswoman, said a January check of DACA applications showed
the government was still processing applications from 2016. Renewals ordinarily
took two to three months; Zapor said without DACA, immigrants in the country without legal permission cannot
legally work in the United States.

said he’s not worried. “My parents are a little worried,” he said. An older
sister, who like him has DACA status, “doesn’t act like she’s worried,” he added.

the days winding down until Trump’s original March 5 deadline, Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the upper chamber would debate a
banking bill in early March, making no mention of DACA — deferred action,

How to
deal with this interim period is “tricky, right?” said Ian Pajer-Rogers,
communications and political director for Interfaith Worker Justice, which has
more than 30 affiliated worker centers around the country.

have taken the position that only a clean DREAM Act will do with no riders or
add-ons from the right — no wall, no border security measures. We’ll continue
that. Where that leaves us with the party in power and the party that is trying
to negotiate for our people, the Democrats, is less clear.” 

The DREAM Act he referred to stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien
Minors Act. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the “Dreamer” name.

among DACA families cuts both ways, he said. “What I’ve seen among the undocumented
folks is a very willingness to self-sacrifice. Among the DACA recipients I’ve
worked with they don’t want to trade their parents’ safety and security for
their own. … I think you find the parents who are willing to say the
opposite, almost. They’re willing to see more enforcement and risk detention if
their kids are safe. We’re really going for the starting point that all are

more pressing thing might be the (Feb. 26) Supreme Court ruling,” Pajer-Rogers
said, “that folks who are in detention can be detained indefinitely without
bond. So if there’s something on the mind of workers today, it’s probably that.”

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