LOCAL IMMIGRANT ADVOCATES SPEAK OUT ON DACA COURT RULING

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"Our contributions to this country are innumerable. Yet, there’s no path to citizenship for us. We pay taxes, build the economy, and contribute to our communities during a pandemic. Yet, we are rejected and insulted once more. Every day that we live without a path to citizenship, is a day filled with anxiety and fear.” -- Dulce Garcia, an undocumented immigrant and attorney who chairs the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.

By Miriam Raftery

July 22, 2021 (San Diego) – San Diego immigrant advocates are reacting in shock to a federal judge’s ruling which orders the Biden administration to halt approval of any new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. The judge also issued a stay temporarily protecting those already granted DACA protections from deportation – but warned that Congress must act to make protections permanent, or the stay might be lifted.

DACA was created through an executive order by President Barack Obama, protecting thousands of young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay here, hold jobs and attend school. Known as “Dreamers,” many have been here nearly their entire lives. The ruling creates an uncertain future for 305,000 DACA recipients and another 854,000 eligible for DACA in southern border states, according to the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Some have been in the U.S. for many years, and some are now married or parents of U.S. citizens.

President Donald Trump had tried to end DACA, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked him from doing so. However, with the new conservative tilt of the high court, it is uncertain whether a new DACA challenge might yield a different outcome.

Dulce Garcia, chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, issued this statement: “Judge Hanen’s decision will be analyzed and discussed over the coming days. This is a disappointing decision and highlights the urgent need to ensure that we have a path to citizenship for all.”

She adds, “What we need now is bold leadership from the Biden Harris administration to work with SDIRC and other organizations to secure and protect the future of the DACA program with comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship not only for DACA recipients but also for all of our undocumented communities.”

For Garcia, the ruling is personal.

“I’ve called the border town of San Diego my home for over 30 years. I am an attorney, an entrepreneur, a leader,” she says. Yet she reveals, “I am also undocumented. Being undocumented means living with fear of being apprehended and deported. When we won our case defending DACA in the Supreme Court, thousands became hopeful that we would have protection from deportation and the opportunity to work lawfully. Our dreams, with the recent decision of the court in Texas, are once more put on hold. It is also devastating to see my clients, many of them minor children, undergo such turmoil.”

Garcia continued, “We do everything we’re told to do. Our contributions to this country are innumerable. Yet, there’s no path to citizenship for us. We pay taxes, build the economy, and contribute to our communities during a pandemic. Yet, we are rejected and insulted once more. Every day that we live without a path to citizenship, is a day filled with anxiety and fear.” 

The ruling was made by federal Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas. The ruling does not prevent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from accepting applications who previously applied for DACA, but does prohibit Homeland Security from approving any new applications. But the decision strikes fear into young immigrants who fear that applications listing all of their personal information could facilitate deportation in the future, if Congress fails to take action.

President Biden called on Congress to provide permanent protection by “granting a path to citizenship for Dreams that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve.” He has repeatedly urged Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and now urged Congress to do so “through reconciliation or other means” with “the greatest urgency.”

Ju Hong, a DACA recipient in California, lost his job and his health insurance after his work permits experienced due to a backlog in processing DACA renewals even before the Texas judge’s ruling.  He, too, wants to see permanent protections.  “We’re tired of living like this—with this fear, anxiety and stress,” Hong told CNN. “Enough is enough”

In March, the House of Representatives did approve legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, with only a handful of Republican votes But Republicans in the Senate have thus far refused to support passage. So immigrant advocates are lobbying Democrats to include a provision in the budget this year, though it’s far from certain whether such an effort would succeed.

“It is devastating to see that at this point the court and elected officials are stlil playing with our future,” Viviana Arciniega, a member of the Southern Border Communities Colalition, says. “We are tired of hearing false promises and nothing going forward…Now is the time for Congress to take charge and fight for what really matters, the well-being of our families.”   She wants to see protections beyond Dreamers, for all of the estimated 11 million undocumented Americans in the U.S. including an estimated 2.3 million undocumented essential workers in the southern border states.