EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The approval of 170 new DACA applications after a three-and-a-half-year legal battle with the Trump administration was welcomed news for Texas immigration activists.
However, they were quick to point out the permanent solution to fully integrating the young, highly educated immigrants and their parents to American society is through comprehensive immigration reform.
“This isn’t just about DACA; we know that some ‘Dreamers’ never qualified for DACA,” said Claudia Ioli, a former El Paso resident who now leads a nonprofit in Austin. “It’s going to be up to Biden and Congress to take action and pass clean legislation to permanently protect ‘Dreamers’ and their families from deportation without family separation or needless militarization” of the U.S.-Mexico border.
DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era executive order suspending the deportation of unauthorized migrants brought into the United States when they were children and issuing them work permits. “Dreamers” are what DACA recipients – and hopefuls – call themselves.
Court filings released this week show that the Department of Homeland Security approved 170 new DACA applications since Nov. 14, denied 121 and rejected 369 on administrative grounds. The Supreme Court ruled last year that Trump violated the law by terminating the program. A U.S. district judge in New York in November ruled against DHS efforts to at least suspend the program temporarily.
“It’s a good sign. It’s a relief for people who didn’t file because they lacked money for the application or didn’t have enough information,” added Marco Malagon, cofounder of the North Texas Dream Team. “This can definitely become a game changer for those who need to find a job and provide for their families during the (COVID-19) pandemic.”
DACA has been a politically charged issue in Congress since Obama unveiled the program in 2012. However, a Pew Research Center poll released last June showed Americans broadly support legal status for immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children.
But congressional efforts to legalize the “Dreamers” in the past few years required concessions Republicans tied to more border security. Such conditions “tainted” the process and were unacceptable to immigrant advocates, hence Ioli’s reference to “clean” legislation.
“Trump’s decision to rescind DACA in 2017 was disappointing but not surprising. He has run an anti-immigrant agenda that has been amplified in Texas by state leadership,” she said. “He has treated our future as a bargaining chip for a needless wall and further militarization in border communities like El Paso.”
Trump’s decision and legal fight to rescind DACA didn’t do away with the “Dreamers,” it just left them without protection.
“DACA is a permit that has granted ‘Dreamers’ like me the opportunity to continue our education, to legally work in the U.S. and to have access to resources in our community,” said Ioli, co-executive director for Deeds, Not Words, a nonprofit serving ad empowering young women in Texas. “Other Dreamers today need the protections I have.”
And that can only come after Congress approves legalization and a path to citizenship, Texas activists say.
“This is not about Joe Biden. It’s about making sure there’s immigration reform. Hopefully this administration can be open to discussion and if they take the Senate, they can pass relief for Dreamers and their families,” Malagon said. “But let’s not forget we have been in the same situation before, and the Obama administration did not deliver immigration reform, so it’s our duty to hold (Biden and the new Congress) accountable.”
In the meantime, Malagon urges “Dreamers” who haven’t applied or were turned down for DACA to seek qualified help, such as immigration nonprofits certified by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or board-certified immigration attorneys.
“There’s still confusion. I think some people who think they qualify haven’t really gone into the details of the requirements. Others maybe got rejected because they didn’t provide enough evidence,” he said. “Paperwork is important because, let’s not forget, this administration has not been friendly to these applications. Sometimes they reject your application and don’t even tell you why. It’s like, ‘so be it.’”