by Kelsey Hamlin
While Fox News initially reported President Donald Trump’s plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by Friday, South Seattle Emerald has confirmed the impending action with inside sources across various immigration organizations, nonprofits, and their networks.
Local government has its hands tied in creating a program similar to DACA, but before all options are considered, officials still need to figure out precisely what changes the federal government will make to the program.
DACA is an immigration policy created by the Obama administration in 2012. It allows some undocumented immigrants who came to America as minors to obtain workable status in the U.S., staying for two years without fear of deportation. Undocumented people can, and often do, reapply to renew their status at the end of every biennium.
Joaquin Uy with Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs said three scenarios could most likely play out. Trump could stop DACA recipients but allow those who currently have it to maintain their status indefinitely. Another route the federal government could take is a widespread wipeout of everyone’s DACA, forcing people to return to full undocumented status. This means people will be unable to work, receive scholarships for education, and be on PTSD-level constant alert for deportation.
The third scenario? A hybrid of the two. This option would involve retaining DACA only for earlier applicants but removing it for those who were granted the status within the past year. Again, these are theories, but sources speaking to the Emerald with inside knowledge of the matter say Trump is likely to take action along one of these lines.
“If they do cancel it, in terms of working, there’s not a whole lot anyone can do other than encourage people to organize or break the law and have people work under the table,” Uy said. “That’s regulated by the Department of Labor at the federal level for who can work and who can’t work.”
He also noted that people, organizations and CEOs themselves can encourage scholarships, fundraisers, and monetary donations for undocumented people.
“In terms of what we [the city of Seattle] can do, we have to know what the federal government is going to do specifically before we can act,” Uy said. “The one thing we can do locally is we can offer a multiple disciplinary approach to let immigrants and refugees know ‘we have your back.’”
Uy went on to list legal defense funds, awareness campaigns urging people to obtain citizenship, and working with community groups to keep the messaging out there.
One messaging system already in place is the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project’s hotline (phone number listed at the end of this article). It allows people to call in potential Immigration and Customs Enforcement sightings so the organization can send a dispatcher to confirm. If verified, a text message alert goes out to those who sign up, and a support system activates for the families affected.
“DACA was never a status, as we’ve seen in the past few months, that automatically protected you from an ICE arrest or detainment,” Uy said.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, a Seattle DACA recipient, was detained in February despite his status. Officials accused him of gang activity. Medina was released on a $15,000 bond, and awaits his next immigration court hearing. He sat in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. for a month and a half.
“For some people, DACA did give people some semblance of hope,” Uy noted, “but I’m hesitant to give anyone any kind of false hope by claiming that there is sanctuary anywhere.”
Seattle will continue, at least for the foreseeable future, not to ask for citizen or immigration status when people apply for and use city services.
The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WISN) released a statement saying they cannot confirm the Trump Administration’s future course. But they did add a handy tri-lingual information page on what to know if DACA is removed.
Among other things, they explain work permits are generally valid until they expire or the government demands their return. If the program ends and work permits aren’t revoked, past DACA recipients will still be able to work legally until it expires.
Under no circumstance must anyone inform their employer DACA has ended. Employers also don’t have the right to ask about an employee’s status or how work permits were obtained. They also cannot fire people, place them on leave, or change work status until work permits expire.
Social Security Numbers are valid for life, even after a work permit and/or DACA status expires. The WISN advises people to apply for an SSNs while permits are still valid — which are the only times SSNs are can be used for employment. The network advises the same for driver’s licenses, which vary by state.
A few months ago, the Seattle Police Department specifically explained their policy requires zero inquiry about immigration status.
“This policy has been in place for probably a decade or more,” Mark Jamison with SPD Public Affairs explained. “We don’t want that to be a barrier for anyone to report things to the police.”
He did note, however, that if somebody is arrested and booked into jail, federal officials have mechanisms available to find that information. But SPD does not proactively go out of their way to report that information to ICE.
Contrary to popular belief, ICE’s highest year of removals was in 2012, sitting at 409,812 people. The number of people deported last year was nearly half that. But the percent of interior deportations (as opposed to at-the-border ones) have steadily increased over the years.
South Seattle Emerald is still awaiting response from additional local officials, immigrant organizations and area colleges on the Trump Administration’s expected actions. A follow-up piece will be posted once more information and announcements are made in the coming week.
Those wishing to help local immigrants and undocumented people, or those who are undocumented, can consult our action item and resource list. DACA supporters can also call, write, email, tweet, and/or Facebook their representatives about the program.
Call 844-RAID-REP (otherwise dialed 844-724-3737) to report ICE action.
Kelsey Hamlin is a freelance reporter with various Seattle publications. Nearly finished with her University of Washington undergraduate career, she’ll graduate with interdisciplinary Honors, a B.A. in journalism and a minor in Law, Societies & Justice. Hamlin served as President and VP for the UW’s Society of Professional Journalists over the past two years. She is currently looking for more work! Please find her on Twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin or see more of her articles on her website.
Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Joe Brusky