This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending April 17

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Week Ending April 17

This week in immigration: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments in case on administrative relief; Taskforce on New Americans releases recommendations; NCLR continues blog series featuring DACA recipients.

Update on lawsuits challenging executive action: This week, a panel of three judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the preliminary injunction halting the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) on April 17. The panel was announced earlier in the week leading some analysts to speculate that the two conservatives on the panel may vote to uphold the district court’s ruling. Advocates and families (including from NCLR Affiliates TIRRC, Latin American Coalition, and others) are gathering outside the courthouse to demonstrate support for administrative relief and to show that the president’s actions are in the best interest of the country.

White House Task Force on New Americans Releases Recommendations: On April 14, a Task Force that was created as part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in November released its plan to strengthen integration efforts. The Task Force solicited input from a wide array of stakeholders, including NCLR and its vast Affiliate Network.  Among the report’s key recommendations are enhancing the capacity of the AmeriCorps VISTA program to build more welcoming communities, promoting citizenship and naturalization through public awareness campaigns and direct outreach to eligible Lawful Permanent Residents, increasing access to housing, expanding Small Business Administration tools, and increasing access to English-as-a-second-language and early learning resources. The report also commits to launching a Welcoming Communities Challenge to encourage local governments to implement tailored integration strategies for their communities. “We are pleased with the Task Force’s initial set of recommendations to promote the successful incorporation of millions of new immigrants into the fabric of our society, and we are anxious to see them turned into action,” said NCLR Senior Legislative Analyst Victoria Benner. “While federal agencies and community-based organizations stand ready to do their part, ultimately we need Congress to pass bipartisan legislation like the New American Success Act and the private sector to step up in helping our nation meet this important challenge,” concluded Benner.

NCLR features DACA recipient Katherine Perez: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series features the story of Katherine Perez, who arrived from Colombia as a young girl and worked hard to do well in school. Her hard work paid off as she was able to continue her studies as a result of a private scholarship that allowed her to enroll at Montgomery College. She is a DACA recipient and as a result she now looks to her future with renewed hope and resolve. She has transferred to the University of Maryland College Park and is majoring in science. “I have a job and I am in the process of getting my driver’s license. I can now save money to pay for next semester and help out at home with the expenses. I feel more empowered and in charge of my life,” said Katherine.

Living the American DREAM: Katherine Perez

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By Gabriela Gomez, Communications Department Intern, NCLR

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Katherine Perez, far right. Photo: Katherine Perez

When Katherine Perez arrived in the United States from Colombia in 2005, she had one goal in mind: to get a great education that would pave the way to a better life. Her parents made the tough decision to leave their country after her mom got a job offer in the United States, the “land of opportunity.” Yet soon after settling in, the Perez family was met with a harsh reality: the attorney overseeing their immigration case had fled the country, their paperwork and savings in tow.

Despite this setback, the Perez family was determined to move forward. Little by little, the family worked to rebuild their lives in Maryland. While her parents worked, Katherine poured herself into her schoolwork, taking honors courses in middle school and participating in the International Baccalaureate program at her high school. Though she thrived academically, her immigration status put her at an extreme disadvantage.

“I was very dependent on what my parents could help with and provide for me. [With] no money of my own, unable to drive and attend events and school programs—I felt as if everyone else my age was ahead of me, and I was falling behind every day more and more,” said Katherine.

When the college application period rolled around, the legal and financial barriers multiplied. It quickly became clear that the road to a college degree would be challenging and extremely costly.

With help from supportive mentors, Katherine obtained a private scholarship that enabled her to enroll as a full-time student at Montgomery College and work toward an associate’s degree. But economic difficulties at home meant she’d also have to juggle a part-time job to help support her two younger sisters.

As much as she tried, mounting pressures from school and work often led Katherine to question whether her degree was worth the hardship. Would the barriers of being undocumented ever be lifted?

Obama_SOTU3_resizedOn June 15, 2012, she got her answer by way of President Obama’s announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Though initially hesitant, Katherine set her fears aside, submitted her application, and hoped for the best.

Today, the 22-year-old DACA recipient is a student at the University of Maryland. Since receiving DACA, Katherine has found a steady job and transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in science. Thanks to DACA, she now looks to her future with renewed hope and resolve.

“I have a job and I am in the process of getting my driver’s license. I can now save money to pay for next semester and help out at home with the expenses. I feel more empowered and in charge of my life,” said Katherine.

Though these stories echo the power of DACA, they also echo the voice of an immigrant community eager to contribute to the progress and prosperity of the nation. Eager to prove the narrative of the American Dream is alive and well, and within reach. Katherine would like to remind those in Congress seeking to repeal DACA: “Even though we were not born in this land, we have grown to love and respect the national symbols, and to pledge allegiance to the flag. We are here not to bleed out the country, but to make it a better one and to contribute to [its] well-being.”