DACA to remain for now; backers are pleased
Young Roaring Fork Valley immigrants who have been protected from deportation can breathe at least a temporary sigh of relief after the Trump administration said late Thursday that the program providing visas for so-called Dreamers would “remain in effect.”
The statement about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was included at the end of an announcement of the cancellation of a related Obama program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would have protected the immigrant parents of U.S. citizens. A court had blocked DAPA, and it has never been implemented.
Following news reports that DACA would continue and reactions on both sides of the immigration debate, administration officials said Friday afternoon that no final decision had been made.
“The future of the DACA program continues to be under review with the administration,” Jonathan Hoffman, an assistant secretary for public affairs at Homeland Security, said in a statement. He added that while only Congress can decide the fate of these immigrants, Trump has said the issue needs to be handled “with compassion and with heart.”
Trump during his campaign had vowed to eliminate the program, which allows people brought to the country illegally as children to stay if they complete certain steps.
Samuel Bernal, vice president of integrated marketing solutions for Entravision in Basalt, which operates the La Tricolor Spanish-language radio station, welcomed the news about DACA.
“I am happy about this news and I think our community welcomes it, as well,” he said. “It means a victory for our youth.”
Glenwood Springs immigration attorney Jennifer Smith described the decision as “a really positive step” for both the community and economy by allowing young people to graduate, work and open small businesses.
Smith remained skeptical of the administration, though. DACA is an executive order and can be revoked at any time.
“Just because [Trump] changed his mind today doesn’t mean he won’t tomorrow,” she said.
Bernal also held out hope for economic benefits.
“If the young students who have been living for years in this country love this country, show good behavior and want to work legally in their community, they should be not only welcome to do it, but the laws should honor them and make it easier,” he said. “We need hard workers.”
Bernal said his clients are often looking for employees, taking out a record amount of recruitment campaigns on the radio.
“In a lot of cases, the workers are here, but they don’t have the permission to work,” he said. “That’s why I am happy right now about our Dreamers and our community.”
Young people covered by the program often are referred to as Dreamers because the Obama order grew from failure by the U.S. Senate to pass the so-called Dream Act, which would have established ways for children brought to the United States illegally to stay. The program was launched in 2012 and has protected about 787,000 young immigrants from deportation.
Carrie Besnette Hauser, president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, welcomed the news.
“We are encouraged to see the administration’s willingness to continue DACA in the short term,” she said in a statement. “For any Dreamers who want to attend or have been attending college, the recent uncertainty about this program’s future likely has been a distraction from their studies. DACA should be continued because an educated community, without any doubt, is a key economic and social benefit to our Western Slope communities. CMC remains committed to helping every student to succeed.”
Smith, the Glenwood attorney, said immigration is one of the biggest issues in the Roaring Fork Valley. More than 30 percent of Glenwood Springs residents in the 2010 Census and more than half of Roaring Fork School District students identify as Hispanic or Latino.
“The valley is very diverse and that’s part of what makes where we live very special,” she said. “Sometimes we forget that diversity and need to honor it.”
DACA does not give young people residency status, but temporarily protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally. The protection can be revoked at any time and some young immigrants have lost their DACA protections after being arrested for a crime.
The program affecting parents, DAPA, was blocked by a federal judge in Texas after 26 states sued. Republicans saw it as a “back-door amnesty” and argued that Obama overstepped his authority by protecting a specific class of immigrants living in the United States illegally.
That program, like the one for young immigrants, was created with a policy memo, not by legislation. Both programs required that participants meet certain conditions, including not having a history of serious crimes.
Trump has made immigration enforcement a top priority and has vowed to continue a crackdown on those living in the U.S. illegally and those trying to sneak into the country. Arrests of immigrants inside the U.S. have increased under the Trump administration, but deportations are slightly down as fewer people have been caught crossing the Mexican border into the United States illegally.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.