Future of DACA in Danger

With the possible changes looming over the DACA program, recipients of its benefits fear that their status in the US will change. Photo courtesy of John Silliman/ Unsplashed

On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will no longer be accepting applications.

The DACA program was a way to extend work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the US when they were minors. The program was established in 2012 by President Barack Obama. About 800,000 immigrants between the current ages of 15-36 were granted work permits, social security numbers, and federal benefits.

President Trump argued that President Obama bypassed Congress in order to provide these work permits and it is now up to Congress to find another way to create a pathway to US citizenship for these young immigrants.

“I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals — to improve jobs and wages for Americans; to strengthen our nation’s security; and to restore respect for our laws,” Trump said.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA will not be accepting new requests. However, they will be adjudicating initial requests that were accepted by Sept. 5.  They will also no longer approve advance parole requests and only adjudicate  renewal DACA requests received by Oct. 5, 2017.

DACA recipients came to America as children and many of them do not know much about the countries from which they came, including, in many cases, their languages.

Sophomore Natasha Salgado has worked closely with the youth of her community for the past seven years and is in favor of how the DACA program has impacted the lives of those she has helped.

“I am an advocate for the better tomorrow, and making the future begins with taking care of our youth today,” Salgado said. “Deporting them to a country they know nothing of would put them in a dangerous situation unlike anyone knows.”

Many in the San Diego community, including Bishop Robert McElroy, who made a statement regarding DACA on Sept. 5, disagrees with the President’s decision regarding DACA.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to initiate the process of eradicating the rights of hundreds of thousands of young men and women to legally live and work and contribute in American society not only robs them of their security in remaining in the only homeland that many of them have ever known,” McElroy said. “It also robs our nation of some of the finest young people who seek to build up our country for the next generation.”

USD President James T. Harris III sent out a campus-wide email of his thoughts on the elimination of the DACA program.

“This action strikes at the very heart of our values as a Catholic university by demonstrating a lack of compassion for our fellow Toreros who are working hard to earn a degree and find a legal path to U.S. citizenship,” Harris said. “As a university community, we stand in solidarity with those impacted by this order and encourage Congress to take action to remedy this situation.”

Chair of the Presidential Task Force on National Immigration Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo reported that to the best of the Task Force’s knowledge there are currently five DACA students attending USD.

According to Trump’s statement, the program will not be immediately eliminated as of now, since President Trump is giving Congress a six-month period to act.

“This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase-out,” Trump said. “Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months.  Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

Ferruolo was able to look at the situation from a legal standpoint.

“If the result of this is to clarify and to make permanent the legal status of DACA students and to give them a path to citizenship, I think that is a good thing,” Ferruolo said. “As a lawyer, law professor, and law dean I can certainly understand questions about the legality and constitutionality of what President Obama did because it was done by executive action rather than an act of Congress. The legality of what President Obama did is questionable. But I don’t question, nor do I think most Americans question, the morality of what he did.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez suggested community involvement during this time.

“Write, call or visit your local Congress representative,” Vazquez said. “This is a critical time to raise our voices.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune/10News conducted a poll survey of 500 San Diego County residents about their thoughts on Trump’s action toward the DACA program.

When asked if they thought Congress should pass legislation to continue a version of DACA, 63 percent reported should, 17 percent reported should not, and 20 percent reported not sure.  29 percent  said Congress will pass legislation to continue a version of DACA, 30 percent said will not, and 42 percent were unsure.

During the next six months, DACA is in the hands of Congress to decide the fate of these immigrants.  The USD School of Law Immigration Clinic provides services and legal advice to the community on immigration matters.

“In this critical period, priority is given to addressing any known DACA students and employees of the university,” Ferruolo said.

Support for DACA students and employees are available in multiple offices across campus.  For more information, visit the USD  Inclusion and Diversity webpage.

Lilyana Espinoza | News Editor | The USD Vista