by Kelsey Hamlin
After a week of worry by activists and organizations who first caught wind of the nightmare last Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this morning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) will be rescinded.The 10 states that would’ve sued against DACA likely had a heavy hand in the final decision as Sessions referenced the legal and constitutional challenges that ended the Deferred Action for Parent Arrival (DAPA). It was ruled unconstitutional by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Department of Homeland Security said they will stop processing any new applications as of Oct. 5 of this year. This means if someone’s DACA status expires within the next six months, they should apply for DACA again before this year’s deadline: October 5th 2017. And, for safety measures, contact the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to be put in contact with an attorney, per the advice of their Seattle director Jorge Barón.
Yesterday Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he will sue President Trump should he remove DACA. Approximately 18,000 DACA recipients, who came to the U.S. before 2007 and before the age of 16, live in Washington state. Across the entire nation, the program serves 800,000 DACA recipients. The promise to sue was also announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The administration’s actions this week have thrown activists and organizations up in arms, and have hit families particularly hard. One family of undocumented immigrants residing south of Seattle has been struggling to cope with the information. While they tried avoiding the topic Monday night, the two parents kept switching back to Spanish news channels talking about DACA and Trump. They flicked away the channel after approximately five minutes but worry was still visible on their faces.
They have four children, two boys and two girls. All of them are on DACA. Most of them are in their 20s. One has a year left in college. Their mother began crying last night, though this is not the first time her or her family has dealt with the heavy and uncaring hand of immigration policy. She has had to retrieve other family members from deportation before, through lawyers. The cost was upward of $50,000.
The removal of DACA translates to the eventual, if not immediate — depending on when a DACA recipient’s current status expires – difficulty in attending college. It also translates to the inability to work.
Sessions stated the executive branch sought to remove DACA because the legislative branch failed to do so. He also repeatedly used the offensive terms “illegal aliens” rather than “undocumented immigrants”. Most activists argue the terms Sessions used dehumanizes people.
The U.S. Attorney General also argued the Obama administration’s implementation of DACA was an overstep of their power on immigration law.
Facts and history go to show, however, that most immigration law has come from both the executive and legislative branches, including bans on travel like Trump has implemented and the management of visas. The first immigration law dates back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, based on the nation of origin — something now illegal. Immigration law was then reconstructed around and defined by specifically race in the 1924 Immigration Act, and has since been expanded on the legislative and executive levels.
Sessions went on to say in his announcement that undocumented immigrants “took our” jobs after specifying issues at the Southern border. DACA, however, doesn’t solely impact Mexican American families. It impacts all immigrants of all races and nationalities.
This profound effect on all immigrants was announced multiple times at today’s rally and press conference held by advocacy organizations at El Centro de la Raza where Cinthia Vazquez moderated the event. Vazquez called DACA “a bandage,” an executive action that was never a real solution.
Another speaker, Paul Quinonez, is a Gonzaga graduate who moved to America when he was seven years old. He is a DACA recipient.
“Neither myself nor the 800,000 DACA recipients throughout the country should have to constantly justify our existence,” Quinonez said, “or rise to some ridiculous standard of what Americans expect us to be like.”
He also stated that, even though DACA recipients are being persecuted, they refuse to be bargaining chips for hurting others in any legislation.
Educators came to speak as well.
“I work with students who have been kicked out of schools,” one of them said, “because educators didn’t know how to deal with them.”
Jorge Lara is a Seattle University student. He’s experienced firsthand how schools mishandle DACA recipients.
“Departments have bounced me around because they don’t know how to support me,” he said. “They instigate fear in the form of raids, incarceration, deportation. With or without DACA, we are here together.”
Another DACA recipient spoke up: Amy Kele from the University of Washington in Bothell. She came to the U.S. when she was four years old. In 2008, however, her parents went to Fiji and weren’t granted the visas to return. She and her younger sister, who was born on American soil, have been separated from their parents since. Their undocumented grandmother has since taken care of the two.
“I would lose employment and wouldn’t be able to support my family,” Kele said of DACA’s removal. “I would get separated from my sister … I need you to pass on real immigration reform.”
This was the third time during the conference that immigrants named DACA as a temporary and unfit solution to immigration policy.
Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky, a Law, Societies & Justice professor skilled in the topic of immigration notes that DACA is particularly unique.
“You have a large group of immigrants who are marginally socially integrated and who are legally not,” Pinedo-Turnovsky explained. “Under DACA, they are simultaneously protected and unprotected since they don’t have the opportunity to obtain legal status, let alone full citizenship.”
Any changes to DACA, in her mind, are distinctive of this particular time in history. Pinedo-Turnovsky said the defining moment of immigration history was the passage of the Illegal Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (the IRIRA) of 1996. Since then, the ability to migrate has been heavily policed and reduced, as have the routes one can use to adjust their status.
Washington Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, spoke at the rally. He is a son of immigrants and called Trump’s ban and removal of DACA, “executive disorders.”
“This is a president who regularly, systematically, perversely goes after the most vulnerable members of our community,” Habib said. “We will not abandon you. You are our family. We love you.”
Habib called for a second creation of the DREAM Act, Washington’s law giving funds to undocumented college students. He went on to further request the private sector to chip in.
Microsoft and Apple did recently offer to provide all court costs to their employees receiving DACA.
While Sessions said society will flourish with the removal of DACA in his announcement, immigrants contribute overwhelmingly to America’s economic, social, and cultural stability.
“Regardless of how many times they will continue to attack us, we will fight on our own terms,” Vazquez said in closing.
If anyone feels they’re witnessing an ICE raid or stop, call 1-844-724-3737 with the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network to send someone who can confirm and alert others. For alerts by this same system, sent when ICE has a confirmed presence, text “JOIN” to (253) 201-2833.
Allies and undocumented persons can check our previous action item and resource list for help.
On Sept. 18 there is a teacher’s action and forum at Cleveland High School.
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 photo Alex Garland