On September 5th, President Trump issued an order ending a program that shields young, undocumented immigrants from deportation. In six months, the protections will be phased out and some of the 800,000 participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will become eligible for deportation.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act—or DREAM for short—was first proposed to the US Senate on August 1, 2001. When congress failed for 11 years to pass the bill out of both houses (it was stalled in the Senate but got through the House), former President Obama enacted an executive order in 2012 designed to repair some of the immigration issues that the DREAM act was supposed to solve.
This order is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In many ways it is a strict ordinance. It allowed undocumented immigrants to apply—paying hefty fees along the way—if they have continually resided in the United States, have no criminal history, are currently in or recently graduated from school or the military and came to the United States prior to their sixteenth birthday.
DREAMers, as those eligible for DACA have been called, often have never known another country. Some only speak English. Many found out about their citizenship status when they applied for college.
In Washington State, DREAMers who are ineligible for federal financial aid due to immigration status are able to apply for the Washington Application for State Financial Aid or WASFA. Although this information is not made available to colleges, the Seattle Times reported in 2014 that more than 1,600 undocumented college students had filled out the application in just the first year alone.
A WSU Vancouver transfer student, who wished to remain anonymous, is a DACA and WASFA recipient in her junior year. She recalls “the anguish and disappointment” of growing up in the United States, knowing she would not be able to attend college. However, when DACA applications opened, her “life took a 180-degree change,” as she was able to open her own business and go back to school. She says, “during those glorious days, my outlook on life was bright, I had no fears, and was no longer under a dark cloud of depression and anxiety because of my legal status. Last week my future was once again in jeopardy.”
A graduate student in the Public Affairs program at Washington State University Vancouver also wished to remain anonymous, wrote that “[DACA] was a once in a life opportunity,” and she “began looking for a job in the public sector, and applied for admission at WSUV.”
As evening rolled around on September 5th, Washington State University President Kirk Schulz released a statement emphasizing that student dreamers “are valued members of the Cougar family, and we remain committed to supporting their dreams of a WSU education.” However, he did not outline any resources for students or specific ways that school administration would protect DACA recipients.
Some resources are available at Vancouver campus. April Tovar, Assistant Director of Student Financial Services, has been cited as a support system for some students struggling with their citizenship status. Furthermore, Laura Arellano works to accommodate and support undocumented students as part of the Student Diversity Center. However, there is also a great need in counseling services. The graduate student advocates for the counseling department to become “more educated about current immigration topics” in order to better deal with the anxiety that “many Latino students” face.
Resources for DACA students are also available in our area. The Oregon chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association takes appointments regarding help filling out the DACA renewal form, as well as scholarships for those who cannot afford the fees. Additionally, on September 22, from 1 — 4 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, there will be a Rapid Response Training to help immigrant communities with legal advice in response to recent developments in policy.
Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that focuses on immigrant rights, sent an email on Monday, September 11, encouraging people who are affected by DACA’s end to “speak out, know your rights, and [organize].” He also promoted “welcoming city and inclusive policing ordinances.” These ordinances are also known as “sanctuary city” laws.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on January 17 saying that even though Clark County is not a “sanctuary county,” it does not accept requests from federal immigration officials to detain people in the Clark County Jail, as reported by the Columbian. At a Latino community meeting in November 2016, the deputy sheriff said the Vancouver police officers “are not Immigration Officials and thus should not act as such.” What remains unclear is the difference between the existing policies and concrete sanctuary city policies.
In Dr. Long’s constitutional law class on Tuesday, September 5th, the topic of DACA’s repeal was discussed. Murmurs of anger and discontent ensued, as well as arguments about the constitutionality of such executive orders. Others had personal experiences with the law in their family or community. As one student put it: “This sucks.”
Although House speaker Paul Ryan said “DREAMers will be fine,” Congress moves slowly and some students may not be able to last under that uncertainty.
The graduate student from WSUV said she “might lose [her] job within the next six months, and with it, [her] medical insurance and other benefits.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in his announcement, said the program “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” But the graduate student said that she is “not taking anyone’s jobs but rather creating [her] own opportunities, bigger than anything else [she has] ever endured.”
The undergraduate student’s work permit expires in January, and she said she is afraid. “America is my home. I love this country, and I wish to continue being here,” she said. “Every night before going to bed, I pray for the current administration, Congress, and the president, so that they can come together and deal with this humanitarian issue ‘with heart,’ as our commander in chief has expressed when asked about this. Hopefully, our situation is addressed with compassion, and a positive outcome is reached for the sake of the 800,000 DREAMers whose hearts belong in the United States.”