This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending May 29

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Week Ending May 29

This week in immigration: decision in Texas lawsuit maintains the temporary halt to the implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA; NCLR continues blog series on deferred action recipients; and Members of Congress call for an end to family detention. NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in Bloomberg PoliticsCNN Politics, and appeared on Univision and CNN en Español.

Court case continues hampering implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA: This week a panel of three judges for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by a 2 to 1 decision to grant an emergency stay of the preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded DACA, programs announced in the president’s November 2014 immigration actions. An appeal of the preliminary injunction is scheduled for July 10th. Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, Deputy Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, NCLR reacted to the decision: “Those who continue to block commonsense relief to settle a score with the president should realize that their political gamesmanship is destroying lives and alienating an increasingly influential voting bloc, who will remember these very personal attacks on our families and our community come Election Day.” Read more in our press release.

This decision is by no means the final one. The appeal of the injunction is still pending, as is the underlying case challenging DAPA and expanded DACA. Find out more in a National Immigration Law Center fact sheet.

NCLR Blog features DACA recipient Yazmin Abreu: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog profiles a 30-year-old from Orange County, California. Yazmin Abreu arrived in the United States from Mexico when she was eight years old. Growing up, Yazmin didn’t quite understand why her family moved to the United States and what being undocumented meant for her future. In middle school, she realized her undocumented status, but was determined to attend college upon graduating high school. Thanks to the California DREAM Act, Yazmin was able to pay in-state tuition at California State University, Long Beach, where she graduated in 2012 with a degree in health science education. With DACA, Yazmin can now search for a job that matches her skills and interests. The journey hasn’t been easy, but Yazmin is determined and she wants everyone in her community to have the same opportunity to reach the American Dream.

Advocates call family detention an affront to our nation’s values: This week 136 House Democrats sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging the end of the practice of family detention. The letter notes: “We believe is it undeniable that detention in a secure facility is detrimental to mothers and children and is not reflective of our values as a Nation. Children require special protections and should not be placed in jail-like facilities.” The letter is spearheaded by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). APolitico article notes DHS’ response, with spokeswoman Marsha Catron saying “Family residential centers are an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries. ICE remains committed to ensuring all individuals in our custody are held and treated in a safe, secure and humane manner.” However, House Democrats contend “We must prioritize the health and well-being of mothers and children while also prioritizing our enforcement objectives. Detaining mothers and children in jail-like settings is not the answer.”

Nebraska lawmakers override veto on driver’s license bill: Last week we noted in the update that Nebraska lawmakers had voted to reverse a policy denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. This week, Nebraska lawmakers overrode Gov. Pete Rickett’s veto of legislation DACA recipients to get driver’s licenses – ending that state’s status as the only one to deny driving privileges to DACA recipients. NCLR Affiliate, Latino American Commission, was joined by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in supporting the measure.

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A group photo sent to NCLR by Affiliate, Latino American Commission, taken after the victory outside the legislative chamber.

 

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Why Does Mel Watt Continue to Waver on Homeowner Relief?

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist, NCLR

HousingDiscrimination_blogpic_newMore than five million homeowners in the United States are paying much more for their homes than they are worth. Ironically, one of those homeowners is Sylvia Alvarez, who heads the Housing & Education Alliance, a leading housing counseling agency in Tampa, Fla., and an NCLR Affiliate. Alvarez and her dedicated staff have helped many families escape unsustainable mortgages.

Alvarez is an ideal candidate for principal reduction, but she cannot get help because her mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae. Most of the largest banks have granted some families principal write-downs, understanding that reducing the principal on a home for a struggling homeowner is a win-win. Families stay in their homes, continue to pay their mortgages, and stabilize the economy.

After the housing crisis, many experts knew that the solution to a healthier housing market was large-scale principal reduction, and the best place to start was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which manages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Consumer advocates fought very hard to ensure that FHFA had a strong leader and advocate for homeowners.

That’s why NCLR and our allies rallied for Mel Watt, a former U.S. representative and housing proponent, to be appointed as director of FHFA. We fought for Watt so he could fight for homeowners like Alvarez who need relief now. In 2013 we won the fight, and Watt was confirmed as the leader of the most powerful housing entity in the business.

Two years later, we still wait for progress. During the first year of his leadership at FHFA, Watt wanted to study the issue. Research points to obvious benefits of helping homeowners keep their homes, and even the 2013 Congressional Budget Office reported that a principal reduction plan could assist 1.2 million borrowers and save Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac $2.8 billion.

Yet Watt wavered.

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Mel Watt

Now, eight years since the height of the crisis, Watt and FHFA refuse to implement principal reduction. Families pay mortgage dollars that far exceed the value of their homes, and many cannot keep up. In the meantime, banks and investors are pushing out homeowners and acquiring properties at pennies on the dollar. This devastates communities. Turning long-seasoned homeowner neighborhoods into rental communities might not seem bad, but studies indicate that homeownership translates into stability and greater investment in one’s own neighborhood.

When will FHFA and Mr. Watt finally give households the relief they need? Principal reduction remains the solution. It would finally restore homes to their true value. It would also help families hold on to the largest investment most will ever make.

What Happens Now That the Fifth Circuit Has Decided?

The fight for DAPA and DACA is not over, but we know you might have some questions about what happened and where we go from here. Our friends at iAmerica.org have prepared a handy infographic on what to expect now that the Fifth Circuit has made its decision.

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Determined to Achieve the American Dream: Yazmin Abreu

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By David Castillo, Communications Department, NCLR

This week in “Living the American DREAM,” we meet 30-year-old Yazmin Abreu of Orange County, California. Like so many young people profiled in this space, Yazmin arrived in the United States as a child. She was eight years old, and her young mind could not fully grasp why her family was leaving what she thought was a happy life in Mexico. What she didn’t realize was that her father, like many parents, was looking for a way to sustain his family, and coming to the U.S. was the chance to realize his potential. He decided to move first, and Yazmin, her siblings, and her mother would join later.

For much of her early life, Yazmin was not aware of her immigration status. She struggled some in school, though not with her academics. Rather, Yazmin had difficulty socially. Thanks to a great elementary school teacher who took an interest her, she was able to overcome these challenges. In middle school Yazmin discovered that she was an undocumented immigrant. That revelation would affect how guarded she was about many details of her private life.

Despite the problems presented by her status, Yazmin was determined to go to college, though she knew getting there would not be easy. However, thanks to the California DREAM Act, she was able to pay in-state tuition. She also confided in a guidance counselor about being undocumented, and that counselor helped her in the college application process.

Although she was able to attend college, it wasn’t always an easy road. Yazmin’s commute to and from school was an hour and a half every day. Often she made use of the computer labs until they closed, and she wouldn’t get home until midnight. She admits that it took a while for her to graduate, as she had to take some time off to raise funds for classes. Her hard work and dedication finally paid off when, in 2012, Yazmin graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in health science education.

Freshly graduated and ready to work, Yazmin didn’t find a job easily, especially due to her immigration status. Later that year, however, after receiving administrative relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Yazmin hit the ground running, reveling in the practice of even applying for a job legally.

“Right now, I can go to websites, look for jobs, and apply to them, and it is such a sense of freedom,” said Yazmin. She was even excited to go to the DMV. “I had the biggest smile on my face. I was finally able to set foot in there. That fear just goes away.”

Yazmin is still searching for the right career, and she is determined to make it happen. In the meantime, she wants to ask those who are blocking expanded DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) why they are so intent on deporting people who will contribute greatly to the United States, especially given the numbers of people who are already benefiting from relief.

“This country needs DREAMers like us, so why give it away?” she asked. “I know I’m going to achieve the American Dream. They need to think about the future.”