This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending May 1

Immigration_reform_Updates_blue

Week Ending May 1

This week in immigration reform: NCLR Affiliates continue to ready for executive action implementation; NCLR continues our blog series on deferred action recipients; and House Republicans hold hearing on birthright citizenship.

NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in NBC News and the Tennessean.

Congressman Gutierrez and NCLR Affiliates rally to support executive action and comprehensive immigration reform: This Thursday, Congressman Gutierrez (D-Ill.) spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 at a high school in Washington, DC, touching on executive action, comprehensive immigration reform, and his own personal story. This was the Congressman’s 20th stop on his “Immigration Action National Tour,” a national undertaking to inform the immigrant community of the requirements and importance of DACA and DAPA. An article quotes Gutierrez saying, “It’s a huge task and the more people know, the earlier they know it, the better prepared they will be to take advantage. It’s my responsibility not only to demand action here in Washington, D.C., but to ensure to the best of my ability that it is implemented as broadly and as widely and as generously as possible.” Each event also includes volunteers who meet with those potentially eligible for deferred action to inform them about the process and to help get them ready to apply once the programs are no longer on a court-mandated hold. NCLR Affiliates, including Ayuda, CARECEN, Carlos Rosario, La Clinica del Pueblo, Latin American Youth Center, and Mary’s Center, co-sponsored the community town hall.


NCLR blog series features DACA recipient Carla Mena: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series profiles North Carolinian Carla Mena, who received DACA in 2012. DACA has enabled Carla to get a full-time job at Duke University’s Global Health Institute and to continue engaging her community through serving on the Wake Health Services Board of Trustees and working with NCLR Affiliate Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc. While Carla has a temporary reprieve from deportation, her parents, and millions of others, don’t. DAPA, the program for parents of U.S. citizen children or legal permanent residents, is on hold. Our blog notes: “DAPA would provide opportunities for millions of skilled immigrants to work in fields where they can earn and contribute more. If DACA recipients have demonstrated in just three years what this program can do for communities like Raleigh, perhaps it’s time to consider something more stable. Carla’s story attests to the social and economic benefits of administrative relief, however, the overhaul of our immigration policies remain a critical task that Congress must undertake.”

House Republicans Convene hearing on birthright citizenship: This week,  a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether or not birthright citizenship, the policy of granting U.S. citizenship to each child born on U.S. soil supported by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, is good for America. In advance of the subcommittee hearing, civil rights leaders and members of Congress held a press conference to denounce the hearing. NCLR Deputy Vice President, Clarissa Martinez de Castro, said “It’s time to legislate responsibly; we want relief, resolution, and reform.” Democratic Members of Congress weighed in decrying the substance of the hearing, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying, “Evidently, there is no American principle too sacred not to be surrendered in Republicans’ race to pander to the most radical, anti-immigrant corners of their party.  Today’s hearing is an appalling Republican effort to reverse one of our most fundamental constitutional guarantees: people born on American soil are Americans.” A Latin Post article quoted other Members of Congress, including Senator Menendez (D-N.J.), who said the hearing is a “painful reminder that we cannot and must not tolerate second-class citizenship, inequality, intolerance, and injustice. It is a humiliating reminder of the jingoistic insensitivity of the few toward multiculturalism and the changing face of America in the 21st Century.”

ImmReformUpdate_5_1_2015_pic3Clarissa Martinez de Castro of NCLR with Reps. Al Green, Luis Gutierrez, and Ruben Gallego

If DACA Works, Why Not Implement DAPA?

Living the Dream-01 (2)

By Yamid A. Macias and Janet Hernandez, NCLR

LAD_CarlaMenaCarla Mena, a young aspiring American living in Raleigh, North Carolina, who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, continues to be a committed and engaged member of her community. She is a sitting member of the Wake Health Services Board of Trustees and spends most of her spare time empowering youth through her work on the Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc. This NCLR Affiliate taught Carla about the importance of helping Latinos achieve positive social change by building consciousness, capacity, and community action, a belief that has been part of their mission for over 20 years.

Most recently, thanks to her hard work and determination, Carla was promoted to Bilingual Project Coordinator, a full-time position at Duke University’s Global Health Institute. Now that she is a permanent employee, Carla enjoys an array of benefits including, among others, health insurance and a well-deserved salary increase. With these benefits, she can not only increase monetary contributions to her family but also contribute more to the local economy. These opportunities, however, wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for her new status resulting from DACA.

Carla recalls that she first learned about DACA on June 15, 2012. This date had a special significance to her and her family, as it marked the 10th anniversary of their arrival to the United States. “I had recently graduated from college, and learning about this opportunity was a relief,” she said. “The first question I had was, when can I apply? My family and I hugged and cried from the emotion and the opportunity that this represented.”

Today those memories are bittersweet, particularly because Carla fears that her parents—as well as thousands of other parents in the same situation—cannot join her in living the American Dream.

Although Carla’s story represents the reality that hundreds of thousands of young DACA recipients currently face, it also corroborates an undeniable fact: DACA works. This program’s effectiveness suggests that the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) could have an even greater impact on our country’s economy and workforce.

DAPA would provide opportunities for millions of skilled immigrants to work in fields where they can earn and contribute more. If DACA recipients have demonstrated in just three years what this program can do for communities like Raleigh, perhaps it’s time to consider something more stable. As Carla puts it, “Temporary programs are helpful, but a more permanent and more inclusive solution could be better.”  Carla’s story attests to the social and economic benefits of administrative relief, however, the overhaul of our immigration policies remain a critical task that congress must undertake.

Hanging in the Balance: A Tale of Two Latinas

Hanging in the balance-01

This is the story of two young Latinas with the same name, living in the same Southern city, one having recently graduated from college, the other just beginning there, both in the same field. The women immigrated to the United States as children with their parents and both learned as teenagers that they were undocumented. But because of decisions made far away from them, their stories are taking different paths and, without action, their futures are now looking quite different.

Carla Mena (r) with NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía

Carla Mena (r) with NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía

Meet Carla Mena and Karla Salgado. Carla Mena moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, from Peru in 2001, when she was 11. She quickly learned English after being put into ESL classes. A few years later in 2009, 13-year-old Karla Salgado arrived in Raleigh from Mexico. She began middle school and had to learn both a new language and a new culture. Both girls rapidly adapted and excelled in their classes. By high school they were taking AP courses and getting almost straight A’s.

As graduation approached, the young women, each an outstanding student, faced the same barrier: they could not afford the high out-of-state tuition at public universities and they were ineligible for financial aid as undocumented immigrants. Both girls had big dreams that were in danger of being crushed because of their immigration status. Luckily, both girls found a small school in Raleigh called Meredith College that sees the potential in all young women and welcomes diverse students. Carla graduated from Meredith in 2012 with a degree in biology and Karla started there last month declaring a biology major.

Karla Salgado

Karla Salgado

But here is where their stories diverge. Because Carla came to the United States earlier than Karla, she is eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Shortly after Carla graduated from college, President Obama announced DACA, which grants work permits and temporary relief from deportation to certain undocumented youth who meet specific criteria. With her degree, she was able to attain an excellent job as a senior research assistant at the Duke University Global Health Institute’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research.

In contrast, Karla arrived in the United States in 2009, missing the deadline for DACA by two years. Her dream is to become a nurse anesthetist. But without a work permit, Karla’s future is very uncertain and her contributions to America will be limited.

Despite their tenuous status in their adopted country, the young women’s commitment to their community remains strong. In recent months, Karla was appointed by Raleigh’s mayor as the youngest member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee. Carla is also giving back to her community and was recently selected to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Wake Health Services. Both girls also volunteer on the Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc., an NCLR Affiliate.

“If you could just take the time to meet ten Latino families around the country, you would understand why we cannot wait. You would know why we need this now and not when it’s comfortable for you,” said Carla when asked what she would tell President Obama if she had the chance. “In the Latino community, our word means everything. A promise means a promise. It’s hard to get that trust back.”

Karla was equally eloquent. “My status has broken my dream into pieces. I have worked hard to get where I am. I have scholarships to college but it will be in vain because I won’t be eligible to work when I get out. Please don’t tear my dreams apart. It’s not about politics. A piece of paper can change everything.”

The two women have made a positive impact in their communities. Their teachers, employers, and classmates all support administrative action that will allow these young women to continue their contributions. Since Congress has failed to do its job, we need to stand up for our community and urge President Obama to provide relief to aspiring Americans like Karla.

These young women are our future; we must give them a future.