DACA Restored, But Central Florida Undocumented Immigrants Still Worry

By Lisa Maria Garza | Orlando Sentinel
Posted Dec 11, 2020

After three years of legal battles, young undocumented immigrants are again able to file new DACA applications, a relief to many in Central Florida who were denied the chance of deportation protection.

Jasmine, a 21-year-old Mexican living in Orlando, was getting her paperwork ready in July for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when the federal government announced it would reject first-time applicants.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fully restored the program Dec. 7 under orders from a federal judge, allowing Jasmine and an estimated 71,000 eligible young immigrants in Florida to apply for the program, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The ruling is the latest in a series of court challenges since President Donald Trump moved to end DACA in 2017, which also provides a work permit and eligibility for a driver’s license.

Trump’s attempt was blocked in June by the U.S. Supreme Court but the legality of the program was not addressed.

Jasmine, who didn’t want her last name used because she is vulnerable to deportation, said she’s grateful she and her 20-year-old sister can finally submit their applications.

But it’s still difficult to push aside skepticism about DACA’s future because multiple court rulings and administrative actions meant the policy has been canceled and partially reinstated over the last three years.

“It’s hard to not have my hopes up, and I know that’s the case for many other people, because we’ve been living in uncertainty as it is,” Jasmine said. “We’re celebrating this small victory and hoping it doesn’t get taken away again.”

The Department of Homeland Security updated its website saying it would comply with the order but signaled an appeal is possible. Court challenges by Republican attorney generals in Texas and other states are pending.

With that in mind, immigration attorney Nayef Mubarak said he encourages anyone eligible for DACA to apply immediately.

“This is huge because if you were underage or were not in high school before 2017, or you never applied for financial reasons, then you basically lost your opportunity for three or four years now to have these protections and benefits,” he said.

Permit requests from DACA recipients to travel abroad are also restored, and the federal agency is expected to announce how recipients who were granted a one year renewal under the scaled-back program this summer will have their status extended to two years.

For Karen Caudillo, a 24-year-old DACA recipient who graduated from UCF last year, the court victories are great news but not enough progress.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re going to have access to education or access to health care or access to a lot of things we need just to live dignified lives,” she said. “I feel like the end of the road is always going to be comprehensive immigration reform.”

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to protect DACA recipients from deportation, but lawmakers have been unable to pass a bill for nearly 20 years that provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants known as Dreamers.

“Holding the Biden administration accountable for that is going to be very key, because at the end of the day Republicans and Democrats have not always been on the right side of history when it comes to immigrant rights,” Caudillo said. “I feel like there’s a long way to go, and for me, it just doesn’t feel like we’re even close.”

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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