A Time of Political Uncertainty for DACA

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With President Trump’s inauguration came the beginning of an era that has instilled fear and worry amongst the country’s most vulnerable, including undocumented immigrants, and DACA recipients in particular.

Information attained during meetings and psychological sessions conducted at the California-Mexico Dreamers’ Network, for example, strongly suggests DACA recipients living in mixed-status homes are showing increased concern for family members in the country without authorization.

Lea este artículo en Español: Tiempo de Incertidumbre Política Para DACA

“Since learning about the numerous ICE raids taking place in various parts of the country … students are more afraid and concerned that their parents could be deported at any time” than they are of losing their DACA status,” said Lidieth Arévalo, director of multi-media at the California-Mexico Studies Center, Inc. The center offers a graduate-level, study-abroad program for young people, commonly referred to as “dreamers.”

Stephanie M. Ryan, supervising attorney at the Central American Resource Center, said she too has seen clients with U.S.-born children or other family members with lawful status who are “afraid about the possibility of their families being split up if DACA is ended.”

“Losing DACA means losing work authorization, and losing work authorization means losing good, secure jobs. The prospect of losing all of that is worrisome.”

The worry is well justified.

Under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, as many as 750,000 undocumented young immigrants brought to the country as children received deportation relief. The program, approved through executive action by former President Barack Obama in 2012, had given work permits and an emotional relief to many that has now faded.

A few weeks after Trump took office the definition of “criminal” as it applies to people in the country illegally was broadened, consequently expanding the deportation priority list for immigration officials.

Under these new rigid policies, even the three-quarters of a million young people with DACA status aren’t exempt, as seen in the Seattle, Washington case of Daniel Ramírez Medina, the first DACA recipient reported to have been arrested and who was detained for more than a month before being released this week pending a future hearing.

“There is increased fear among DACA recipients,” said Arévalo. “Some are willing to take a chance and risk studying abroad under the new administration, but others demonstrate a greater sense of concern, asking us many questions before they decide to apply to our program.”

While Trump’s tough immigration stance has remained unchanged since taking office in January, it is still unclear whether DACA will remain untouched or if he will handle the program “with heart” as he’s previously said.

Angelica Salas is executive director of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), an organization that has helped more than 7,700 young people apply or renew their DACA permits. She called the possibility of a repeal “ill-advised” and the basis for chaos.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

“We call on the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who have signed up for DACA thus far not to panic, seek verifiable information and guidance from trusted sources, and actively engage in the fight for a permanent solution,” she said in a statement to the press.

This is exactly what Jacqueline Garcia, a Mexican-born DACA recipient since 2012 has done to fight the uncertainty surrounding her.

“I am not one bit scared because I have never committed a crime,” Garcia said. “Also, I am very informed and know what my rights are. I know what I can and cannot say if I’m confronted by an ICE official,” she told EGP.

Garcia advises current beneficiaries of the program to follow the guidelines of proper behavior outlined by the government when you first apply.

“Don’t do things that are obviously violations of moral conduct like driving under the influence,” Garcia said. “For U.S. born citizens a DUI means receiving a ticket, but for DACA recipients it means losing everything.”

Ryan reiterated this and added that it is essential for current recipients to stay up to date with any government announcements and stay out of trouble.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

“If you have any prior criminal history (either arrests, charges, or convictions) or if you have had any prior contact with immigration, you should first consult with an experienced immigration attorney or accredited representative before renewing your DACA” permit, Ryan said.

For those who are under the program and wish to travel abroad, CHIRLA’s immigration experts advise against it. According to the organization, under the current political climate, those who leave the country and try to return “are at greater risk to not be allowed back into the U.S.”

Because of the warnings, the California-Mexico Studies Center, Inc. initially 2017 California-Mexico Dreamers Study Abroad Program, but has since decided to go ahead with the program this summer.

“After giving it some thought, and seeing the continuous interest from DACA recipients to study abroad, we decided to take the chance to do what could possibly be the last [trip],” Arévalo said.

Most importantly, however, the consensus between experts is for individuals to stay up to date with new law and immigration policy announcements and to stay alert.

“Don’t be afraid to seek information or to simply talk about the subject with your family members,” Garcia said. “When you avoid talking about subjects like death or immigration, thinking it will bring bad luck, you are just setting yourself up for failure once it happens.”

Trump’s Softened Immigration Stance Met with Caution

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Immigrant advocacy groups demanded concrete and immediate action from Pres. Donald Trump following his comments on his immigration plan Tuesday during his first speech before Congress, as until now he has only managed to instill fear with his executive orders.

“I believe that a real and positive immigration reform is possible…if we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades,” Trump said to a joint session of Congress.

An official source at the White House told EFE Services that the president thinks both Democrats and Republicans have to “soften their positions” if they want immigration reform to happen.

However, the source did not clarify whether the president is open to considering a path to citizenship or legalization for the young beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a program started by former Pres. Barack Obama that has since protected about 750,000 undocumented immigrants from immigrations, as well as allowing them to work legally in the U.S.

Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP that he is delighted that the Trump Administration is interested in immigration reform, but “will not [hold his] breath.”

“If this Congress was interested in passing some sort of immigration reform, it would have happened already. Much like the President’s healthcare reform idea, we have yet to see details, or an actual plan…ICE raids and intimidation tactics are not the solution,” Cedillo said in a statement emailed to EGP.

Meanwhile, the Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pledged to keep fighting in favor of immigrants and refugees in court.

“The president’s speech was void and completely divorced from the reality and damage that it has inflicted on the most vulnerable communities in the country,” ACLU said in a statement.

During the speech, Trump referenced Jamiel Shaw II, a young African-American high school student from Los Angeles High School who was murdered by an undocumented gang member in Arlington Heights in 2008. Shaw’s father, who rallied on behalf of Trump during his campaign, was a special guest on Tuesday, along with three other victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

“We must support the victims of crime,” Trump said, adding that through the creation of an office called VOICE, Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement, his administration is “providing a voice to those who have been ignored by the media, and silenced by special interests.”

“Trump continues to label immigrants as criminals, an accusation as fake as it is cruel,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.

Alfonso Aguilar, president of the conservative group Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, declared his support for finding solutions for undocumented immigrants and said in an interview on CNN, “ironically, maybe Trump is the one who can achieve this.”

In his opinion, the president has the confidence of hard-line advocates and could be able to negotiate an agreement.

EGP Staff Writer Stacey Arevalo contributed to this story.


CA Leaders Rebuke Trump’s Orders on Border Wall, ‘Sanctuary Cities’

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Southland and California elected officials and activists wasted no time today lashing out at President Donald Trump’s executive actions calling for construction of a wall along the Mexican border and slashing funding for so-called “sanctuary” cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and substantially beefing up the ranks and enforcement authority of border agents.

“These are serious times that call for serious solutions,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles in response. “Yes, border security is a crucial pillar of comprehensive immigration reform, but a huge wall won’t make us any safer, morally upright, reduce the deficit or energize our economy.

“We need reform that provides real border security, unites families, protects American workers and offers an earned pathway to citizenship — something that Democrats and I will continue to champion in the face of the crazy conservatism of Trump world,” he said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Trump’s orders will “harm public safety, tear families apart and jeopardize national security.”

“Forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall isn’t a solution, it’s a political gesture,” Harris said. “And telling cities they must deny public safety, education and health care services to children and families living within their jurisdiction will not make us more secure, it will mean fewer crimes reported and more families living in fear.”

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the organization would continue to stand in support of the roughly 1 million immigrants without legal status living in Los Angeles County.

“We have already strengthened protections for immigrant workers in collective bargaining agreements,” Hicks said. “Now, with our state legislators and county Board of Supervisors, we will grow the 100 attorneys we have already organized into a much larger force to make sure every immigrant has a lawyer to defend their rights to a fair process.

“For decades, Los Angeles and California have been stronger, more progressive and more prosperous than the rest of the nation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, President Trump has chosen to take our nation down the dark path of division and exclusion.”

Building a border wall was a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign, and he continues to insist that although the United States will be moving ahead with construction, Mexico will ultimately foot the bill — something Mexican leaders have steadfastly denied.

“I’m just telling you there will be a payment,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News. “It will be in a form — perhaps a complicated form. And you have to understand what I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”

California’s new Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, issued a statement saying, “It is important to put these White House executive actions in context.”

According to Becerra, executive orders do not change existing law nor can they contradict existing law. He noted they can be challenged in court for “violating constitutional and legal standards in their enforcement.”

Becerra said his office is “prepared to protect the public safety and general welfare of all Californians as well as their privacy and property rights,” adding the state “will protect the rights of all of its people from unwarranted intrusion from any source, including the federal government.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) called the president’s actions “ deeply troubling.”

“With today’s executive orders, this president has transformed his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into destructive action which is intolerant, fiscally irresponsible, and dangerous, Roybal-Allard said, adding it would force “Local jurisdictions will be forced to choose between their share of federal funding and keeping faith with their local communities.”

Pres. Trump has yet to take action on his promise to deport anyone in the country illegally, especially those with criminal backgrounds, or to reverse former president Barack Obama’s executive actions to protect people brought to the country illegally as children, often referred to as Dreamers.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), temporarily normalized the status of more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants, allowing them to legally work in the           U.S. among other benefits.

Trump’s supporters believed overturning Obama’s two executive orders would be among his first actions after taking office, and were disappointed his action on the border wall Wednesday did not also include an order to end DACA and DAPA.

Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) said in a written statement Wednesday that he “is encouraged that the Trump Administration and the U.S. Senate are working together to resolve our immigration crisis through consensus legislative action, not executive fiat or alarmist rhetoric.

“Hardcore criminals should rightly be the focus of deportations, not hard-working families and students,” Vidak said.

He said Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has made it clear “Trump has no immediate plans to deport the youngsters, but would instead work with the House and Senate leadership “to get a long-term solution on that issue.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Monday that DACA is “unconstitutional and has to be replaced,” ideally in conjunction with “measurers that ensure that our immigration laws are being enforced.” He said he believes however, that there is broad consensus that Dreamers should not be deported but allowed to stay in the country.

Trump’s actions coincided with the first meeting, scheduled for Wednesday night, of a Los Angeles City Council committee on immigrant affairs.’

Among the items on the panel’s agenda is a reaffirmation of Los Angeles Police Department Special Order 40, which prevents officers from stopping people solely to question them on their immigration status. The department also does not detain people based solely on their immigration status.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, said the city does cooperate with immigration authorities, “particularly in cases that involve serious crimes, and always comply with constitutional detainer requests.’’

“What we don’t do is ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws, and that’s an official LAPD policy that has been enforced for nearly 40 years,” he said. “That is for everyone’s good, because trust between police and the people they serve is absolutely essential to effective law enforcement.

“Everyone in L.A. should feel safe stepping forward if they have witnessed a crime or been victimized themselves — and immigration status shouldn’t interfere with the cooperation and partnership we need to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Garcetti said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell reinforced that position Wednesday on behalf of his department. McDonnell said the president’s “executive order does not change the mission of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Our priority continues to be protecting our public … Our department policy clearly states that our deputies do not ask for one’s immigration status. Immigration enforcement remains a federal responsibility.”

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