The end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) announced earlier this month has sent shockwaves of fear and confusion through the undocumented and immigrant rights communities, but it’s also prompted massive counter campaigns both to legally challenge the administration and to properly inform people of their rights.
Currently, multiple immigrant advocacy groups are gearing up for legal battle over DACA’s termination.
“We are taking the administration to court to fight for all DACA recipients,” said Ignacia Rodriguez, immigration policy advocate with the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center (NILC), which is representing numerous plaintiffs across the country. “Specifically, we are arguing that the Trump decision to end DACA violates federal law.
Rodriguez argues that when the government reverses a long established policy such as DACA, it must show that it’s doing so for good reason. And the Trump administration, she says, has violated the Administrative Procedures Act, by failing to provide the sufficient justification it requires.
“The government did not put forth an adequate rationale for reversing the policy, erroneously claiming that this is in conflict with immigration law,” she said.
Rodriguez said that the administration has also violated the equal protections clause of the constitution’s 14th Amendment, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin, citing a survey which found that nearly all DACA recipients are Latinos.
According to the largest survey to date on DACA, conducted by Tom Wong, an associate professor of Political Science at UC San Diego, 92.8 percent of its recipients identify as Hispanic/Latino.
From the moment he announced his candidacy for president, Trump has attacked Latino immigrants. In January, he authorized the creation of the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) program, which publicized crimes committed by immigrants, focusing primarily on those from Latin America.
Another lawsuit challenging the administration’s ending of DACA was filed in the eastern district of New York on Sept. 6, by 15 states including Washington, D.C. This lawsuit also argues the administration violated the due-process rights of DACA recipients by failing to safeguard the personal information that these immigrants were required to provide when they applied for DACA.
Other suits have also been filed in California (the state with the largest DACA population), including a suit by the University of California and one by the state’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Rodriguez said that there are various organizations pushing at both state and national levels for congress to pass bicameral, bipartisan immigration reform such as the DREAM Act 2017, which would provide undocumented youth a path to U.S. citizenship.
“The reality is that we’re in an emergency situation for these young people,” said Rodriguez.
But between Trump’s professed alleged “love” for “DREAMers” and tweets claiming that DACA recipients “have nothing to worry about,” it’s difficult to determine the president’s intentions.
“It’s hard to read the strength of a tweet [from the president] and it’s hard to even interpret,” Rodriguez said. “So we don’t know what that means. What we want to hear—if he wants to really protect these individuals—is that the program will remain in place until some congressional action is taken, and not giving these arbitrary six month deadlines.”
What we know for sure about DACA
Since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was initiated in 2012, more than 780,000 people have registered with the program.
“Over the last five years we’ve seen a huge number of people register for the program and renew the benefits they’ve received under the program,” said Allison Davenport, staff attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).
Despite the Trump administration’s announcement, DACA is still in effect.
“Pieces [of DACA] would be allowed to naturally expire over the next two years,” Davenport said. “The program will end, but will be phased out slowly.”
The ending of DACA means different things depending on a person’s situation.
Recipients currently with an approved DACA case and an approved work permit are valid until they expire and won’t be revoked, but no new applications will be accepted.
“Anyone who had an initial application on file on Sept. 5, those cases will be processed normally [that is, grandfathered into the program], but no new applications will be accepted,” Davenport said.
The critical deadline for current recipients whose case expires in the next six months (by March 5, 2018), is Oct. 5, 2017, the last date for people to renew. The application to renew costs $495.
“Anyone whose DACA case will expire after that window … are no longer eligible to renew their DACA status,” Davenport said.
Current DACA recipients, including those who renew, are protected from deportation, but that protection can be revoked.
“There are some things that can happen to make someone lose their DACA status,” explained Davenport. “For example, if they are convicted of a certain crime that makes them ineligible, they can lose their DACA status.”
But the message Davenport wants to stress to immigrant communities affected by the decision is that people who currently have an unexpired DACA case will continue to be protected by it and can work legally until it expires. She also strongly recommended that everyone get legal consultation to understand their legal options.
“This is a really important moment for people to go and do a consultation with a quality legal service provider to understand their options,” she said. “But we really want to make sure people are careful about fraudulent service providers at this time. There’s so much fear and confusion in the community, we really don’t want people to fall prey to fraudulent service providers.”
There are many resources available to DACA recipients. Immigration Advocates Network ImmigrationAdvocates.org for instance has a national legal directory under their nonprofit tab.
Ignacia Rodriguez is urging people to visit websites like Unitedwedream.org, Weareheretostay.org and Immigration Advocates (Immigrationadvocates.org), which can provide important information such as FAQs, toolkits and pro bono legal counsel.
More local resources that recipients can take advantage of include Ready-california.org and the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (Sfgov.org/oceia) as well as a host of organizations offering a range of services from workshops to legal consultation.