At our Leaders in Action Summit last week, UnidosUS staff provided an immigration update on DACA and the other immigration policy battles that we have led and joined in the past year. The presentation was led by Senior Policy Advisor Carlos Guevara and Program Manager of Immigration Initiatives Laura Vazquez.
Since DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was rescinded by the Trump administration, UnidosUS has been involved in pushing for a legislative solution for DREAMers. The majority of DACA recipients came to the United States before their seventh birthday and have known no home other than the United States.
“The Trump administration and the Trump administration alone ended a widely successful and legal policy,” Guevara said.
Guevara also acknowledged that the push for a clean DREAM Act has been able to gain so much traction because of the immigrant youth who advocated for themselves and told their stories to explain why DACA relief is so critical for themselves, their families, and communities across the country.
— UnidosUS (@WeAreUnidosUS) March 26, 2018
He also noted that despite the court injunctions that prevented DACA from ending on March 5 like President Trump had intended, this is far from a permanent solution. The court injunctions, for example, don’t allow those youth who were aging in to the program to be able to enroll—and there are an estimated 120,000 young people who this applies to.
Guevara noted that in the past six months the White House has shot down at least four bipartisan attempts at finding a solution for the nearly 800,000 young people who were enrolled in DACA before President Trump forced the program to begin “winding down” on September 5, 2017.
“THE WORK MUST AND WILL CONTINUE”
“The work must and will continue,” Guevara said, adding that we are not just concerned with relief for DREAMers, but also for TPS recipients, who have lived in the United States legally since natural disasters or violent civil wars forced them from their homes. Some TPS recipients have lived in the United States for more than twenty years—their entire adult lives.
— UnidosUS (@WeAreUnidosUS) March 26, 2018
Guevara also highlighted an upcoming battle that immigration rights activists will be faced with—the 2019 budget that has been promoted by the Trump administration, which includes funding for border security and a border wall.
“We should all be mindful of the harm that can be done to our communities when Congress starts talking about budgets,” he said, noting that the provisions that would give more power to agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that Donald Trump has used to tear families apart appear plainly in the 2019 budget.
THE IMPORTANCE OF IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICE PROVIDERS
Vazquez took to the stage to explain some of the tools that are available to Affiliates who are immigration legal service providers. One of them is the website immi.org, which is an online screening tool. Vazquez noted that because Affiliates are community-based organizations, they have the opportunity to engage with the members of their community and better determine their immigration needs.
“They may in fact be eligible for something more permanent and not know it,” Vazquez explained. “It’s really important that we have people go to qualified legal service providers that can give them accurate information.”
One of the other issues that immigration legal service providers encounter—especially in this difficult time—is that the demand is higher than the supply of qualified providers. So far, 19 UnidosUS Affiliates have started immigration legal services programs in the last two years.
To help address the demand for qualified immigration legal services, UnidosUS is partnering with Catholic Legal Immigration Network to offer an immigration law course that will be free for UnidosUS Affiliates. This will increase the pool of accredited representatives that can help immigrants determine their options.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Those DACA recipients who had DACA before the program was revoked may be eligible to renew thanks to the court injunctions, and some TPS recipients may be eligible for other forms of immigration relief. It’s important to speak with an immigration legal service provider to verify your options.
Additionally, the midterm elections will be taking place this year, and they are an opportunity for our community to voice our opinion on the issues that affect us. Make sure you are registered to vote and spread the word about our Power of 18 youth voter registration campaign.
In a time marked by a great deal of political uncertainty, it is important for advocates to use the tools they have available to them and to raise their voices to defend and advance the rights of the Latino and immigrant communities in the country.
By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS