NCLR Joins Civil Rights Groups in Demanding White House Preserve DACA Program

Photo: Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

On January 18, in anticipation of expected executive orders on immigration from the Trump administration, NCLR signed onto a letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urging the new president to keep the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for immigrant youth intact.

The DACA program was established in 2012 under former President Obama to grant temporary deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before their sixteenth birthday. More than 750,000 individuals—known as “DREAMers”—have enjoyed the benefits of the DACA program. For many DREAMers who have grown up in the United States, this has been the only country that they have ever known.

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Granting Extended Status to DACA Recipients is the Right Step Forward

We applaud the bipartisan bill legislation Senator Lindsey Graham (R-N.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced late last week that would provide provisional protected status for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients.

The 2012 program allows unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children—also known as “DREAMers”—who have completed or are enrolled in high school, and who have not committed serious offenses, to obtain temporary protection from deportation, as well as a work permit, renewable every two years. Since DACA’s implementation, almost 740,000 DREAMers have received temporary deportation relief.

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending May 15

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Week Ending May 15

This week in immigration reform: provision in support of allowing undocumented immigrants to serve in the military voted down; NCLR continues blog series on deferred action recipients; and recently released policy agenda highlights Latino priorities and the importance of the Latino vote.

Amendment to defense policy bill strips language in support of allowing DREAMers to serve in the military: This week the House of Representatives voted on amendments to and final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill to fund the military. In committee, a bipartisan group approved an amendment by Congressman Gallego (D-Ariz.) to encourage the Pentagon to consider allowing DREAMers to serve in the military. However, when the NDAA came to the floor late this week, Alabama Republican Congressman Brooks offered an amendment to strip out Gallego’s language. A NPR piece quotes Republican Congressman Coffman (R-Colo.): “I’m disappointed in my colleagues for fighting this. I’m not sure why they’re so opposed to this. I’ve been in the Congress side by side with people who are opposed to this, but yet they themselves didn’t want to serve. These young people ought to have the opportunity to serve.” The Brooks amendment passed 221-202. All Democrats who voted opposed the Brooks amendment, along with 20 Republicans. The NDAA passed the House this morning 269-151. Other House Republicans have voiced support for legislation to allow DREAMers to serve in the military, including Congressman Denham (R-Calif.), who re-introduced the ENLIST Act in April.

NCLR Blog features DACA recipient Jesus Chavez: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series tells the story of Jesus Chavez, a gay undocumented activist from California’s Central Valley. In spite of his undocumented status, Jesus found a way to attend and afford college, where he was active in student-led immigrant advocate groups. When President Obama announced DACA in 2012, he worked with the on-campus group Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE) to assist other students through the application process. DACA has enabled Jesus to pursue his passion: advocacy for the “undocuqueer.” He currently works at PFLAG, a LGBT civil rights organization. Recently, Jesus received the “Next Generation Award” from Metro Weekly, a D.C.-based LGBT magazine. With DACA, Jesus can continue advocating for his community. Jesus notes, “There are so many undocumented LGBT people who struggle, not only because they’re undocumented, but because they’re out and deal with lots of criticism. We need to keep fighting for what we think is right.”

NCLR releases policy agenda emphasizing Latino priorities: This week NCLR held a press conference to mark the release of a new report, “Investing in our Future: A Latino Policy Agenda for the 114th Congress.” The event featured speakers from the Center for American Progress, Latino Decisions and NCLR. The agenda outlines overarching Latino policy priorities in light of the upcoming 2016 elections. Our blog covering the release notes, “The guide provides policymakers with concrete steps they can take to improve educational and economic outcomes for Latino families, support enrollment in health insurance and move forward on passing comprehensive immigration reform. Latinos are a growing segment of the U.S. population and a critical part of our nation’s future workforce; their success is intrinsically tied to the success of our nation and our future economic prosperity.”  Find out more in our news release, read a summary, and read the report.

If DACA Works, Why Not Implement DAPA?

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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.

Living the American DREAM: Ana Angeles

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By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

DREAMers_cantwaitActivism can take on many forms. For some, it takes the form of community organizing or leading demonstrations. For others, that activism might take place online or at the voting booth.  For Ana Angeles, a 30 year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient from Orange County, California, that activism has taken place in her home assisting would-be DACA recipients with their applications. It’s something she has taken great pride in doing. While she never set out to serve as an advocate, it was during the experience of applying for DACA that she realized she had something to offer her community.

Ana has lived in the United States since she was 11. Her parents both left jobs at a university in Mexico in search of better lives for Ana and her younger sister.

As a student in the United States, Ana flourished. Indeed, as an outstanding member of the TEACH Academy, a high school program that preps future teachers, she was eligible to apply for a full scholarship to Vanguard University, a private Christian institution.

Ana ultimately graduated with a degree in business and with minors in math, religion, and accounting. She was excited to begin her career, but like so many young people in her position, she had to put those dreams on hold because of her immigration status. While she searched for a job, economic realities soon set in and she was forced to take one at a fast food joint. This would go on until the president announced the creation of the DACA program.

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Since receiving DACA two years ago, Ana has found work at a local education company as a program manager. It was a promotion from the community marketer position she had before. Having DACA made her eligible for the more substantive, full-time position.

Ana’s willingness to help others navigate the DACA application process, which requires preparation, is what makes her advocacy so remarkable. She is very busy and has always assumed great responsibility as the oldest of her two other siblings. When she started her own application process, she was appalled at the huge fees many lawyers were asking for as payment to assist with applying. Convinced that these lawyers were just taking advantage, Ana decided she would save her money and apply by herself. Through diligent research and organization, her dedication and commitment paid off eight months later.

AllInRally6In the two years since receiving DACA, Ana has helped friends and family successfully navigate the process, but like many advocates, she still asks herself what else she can do. It’s a question that has come up a lot as her renewal period approaches. Ana is still figuring out how to answer that question, but whatever the answer is, her future certainly looks bright and includes the pursuit of an advanced degree.

In the meantime, Ana has a message for those in Congress who seek to undo DACA: “All we want to do is the right thing, to work, and to contribute. I love this country and all that it has given me. Just give us the chance to show you.”