Diaspora News

Sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of DACA recipients


Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security logo.Photo © https://expertbeacon.com

THE Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) remains intact but the proverbial “sword of Damocles” hangs over the heads of its 750,000 recipients nationwide as the Trump administration continue to manifest an anti-immigrant tendency.

Although Donald Trump was heard saying during the presidential campaign that he would take care of the “Dreamers” (the popular term for undocumented persons brought in the US when they were still children), he has not matched that promise with anything concrete, noted Mariam Kelly, senior immigration attorney and DACA program supervisor at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.

Former President Barack Obama issued an executive order to provide them opportunities to work legally.

Kelly said a cancellation of DACA would not result in an “overnight deportations” of its recipients and that the work authorizations issued to them will continue to take effect until their expiration dates.

“So long as a DACA holder has not been deported before, they have the same right as any other person here in the United States without immigration status lawfully — they have right to go an immigration judge and to fight their case,” Kelly explained during the New America Media (NAM) media briefing on Thursday (March 23).

Kelly disclosed that her office, while still helping in the renewal of DACA, have stopped filing for first time applications to the program.

Dreamers were told to seek legal consultations to be appropriately advised on the possible risks or consequences of applying for DACA in today’s political situation, and as well as to determine other legal remedies available to them. Kelly said about 10 percent of her clients turned out to be eligible to the special immigrant juvenile status clause or to other types of visa — like if they have been victims of crimes.

Another resource speaker to the NAM media briefing, Martha Ruch of Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow/Staff Attorney, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, said DACA recipients or undocumented immigrants in general, are protected under the 4th and 6th Amendments of the United States Constitution from unreasonable searches and from self-incrimination; the right to remain silent and to be represented by an attorney.

Ruch advised undocumented immigrants not to bring documents from their country of origin as they maybe incriminating.

A lawyer who is familiar with an immigrant’s case would be a big help in case of an arrest, Ruch said.

It would also be helpful for undocumented immigrants to make a general plan in anticipation of an emergency, Ruch added.

“The hope is that you would never have to use it this kind of plan … make a list of important contact numbers you need to call in case of emergency… know where you are going to get help and who would take care of the children or an elderly at home,” advised Ruch.

Undocumented immigrants should consult with lawyers about criminal issues, including DACA recipients (before they get into the program and while they were under the program), as these have become hot triggers under Trump’s immigration policy.

Jose Magaña-Salgado, Managing Policy Attorney of Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) in Washington, DC, provided the overview to the discussion.

Salgado explained that executive orders are directives from the president on how to implement certain policies. These executive orders cannot contravene existing laws, usually need complementing appropriations from Congress, can be subjected to litigations and can be repealed by a successor-president.

In essence, according to Salgado, the three executive orders issued by Trump enabled the federal government to target everyone for deportation as against Obama’s policy of prioritizing those with criminal convictions. It also made deportations a lot quicker for many undocumented immigrants who, in the past, were allowed to face immigration courts.

The new executive orders also enabled the federal government to use local resources and manpower to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

Odette Keeley, national media network director of New America Media, moderated the discussion.

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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