Local Dreamers seek answers following DACA announcement
Chico State senior sociology student Alejandra Flores’ biggest fear isn’t flunking out of college.
“My biggest fear is not being able to stay in this country,” said the 22-year-old Flores, who is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA.
Flores is one of many local undocumented immigrants shielded from deportation and allowed to work and attend college in the United States legally because of the federal immigration policy. “Dreamers,” as they’re called, had to have been brought to the country as minors and can reapply for DACA status every two years. Last week (Sept. 5), the program was threatened when President Trump announced his intention to end it.
“It’s kind of devastating,” said Flores, whose parents brought her to the States when she was 6 months old.
Local advocates have been gathering resources to help provide answers for those affected by the announcement directing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to phase out and eventually end the Obama-era initiative over the next 2 1/2 years. However, Trump has left the door open for Congress to extend DACA as is, or with amendments.
“They have a good reason to be fearful,” said Andrew Holley, a local immigration attorney.
Holley is one of those advocates offering resources for DACA recipients. He said he has been inundated with questions and concerns about the status of the program.
“You’ve got all this conflicting information,” he said.
Holley’s hoping a series of clinics will help clear up some of the confusion and help those eligible for renewal reapply. During a clinic he held last Saturday, Sept. 9, he found four people waiting outside his Chico office when he arrived there at about 7:30 a.m. He met with each applicant individually, while others waited in the lobby. The application process took about 10 minutes per applicant, Holley said.
“There’s been a lot of panic,” he said in between meetings with applicants.
Thus far, Holley said he’s submitted about 15 renewal applications as well as answered dozens of questions about what the Trump administration’s announcement means.
The only DACA recipients eligible for renewal are those who are within six months of their status expiring. Flores learned while speaking with Holley that she is one of them. She must submit an application, which Holley helped her complete.
According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a group based in Oakland, all applications received by the announcement on Sept. 5 were accepted. Beyond that, only renewal applications received before Oct. 5 will be processed, which is where Flores’ eligibility lies.
Flores, who hopes to someday work as a school counselor, is not sure what other options she has if DACA is rescinded or her renewal is denied.
“If it was revoked, I would look for alternatives to become a resident, although it would be very hard and there are certain laws in order to become one, and would probably take years,” she said.
DACA recipients also have been leaning on Chico State as a place to find resources. Staff and faculty at the university have been answering questions around the clock, offering counseling and resources to help clear up some of the confusion surrounding the policy.
“I know it’s been nonstop,” said Elizabeth Alaniz, director of the DREAM Center at Chico State, which supports students, faculty members, staff and community members who are undocumented or come from mixed-status families.
While the university does not have an official count of how many students are DACA recipients, Alaniz said campus officials have estimated about 200 to 300 students are part of the program. There are about 800,000 DACA recipients nationwide, about a quarter of whom live in California.
DACA students aren’t just fearful of losing their status, which would affect their ability to work and attend college—they’re also fearful of being deported.
“They have my address,” Flores said.
Flores said when first applying for DACA status, applicants must provide proof of residence, which would make it easier for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to locate her and other Dreamers.
Some states are taking action to protect Dreamers who live there. Monday morning (Sept. 11), California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced he’d filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its decision to end DACA. California was joined by Minnesota, Maryland and Maine in filing the suit in U.S. District Court, arguing that the Trump administration violated the Constitution and federal laws when it rescinded DACA, according to a press release from Becerra’s office.
The University of California also has sued the administration. California State University Chancellor Timothy White has publicly urged Congress to renew DACA.
For now, Flores waits. She waits to hear the status of her renewal application, and she waits on the status of the DACA initiative.
“If I was deported it would be a really bad experience, due to the fact that I wouldn’t know much about the country I was born in, and the employment would be hard to find,” Flores said. “I see myself living in the USA all my life.”