DACA’s demise means discarding some of our most educated
By DAVE MYERS
Southwest Kansas Catholic
The DACA program benefits 800,000 young immigrants, nearly 7,000 of whom live in Kansas. If the DACA program is not renewed on March 5, there is a good possibility that someone you know will be placed on the deportation list.
“You’re talking about attorneys,” Ernestor De La Rosa, Assistant to the City Manager and Interim Human Resources Director for the City of Dodge City.
“You’re talking about nurses. You’re talking about teachers. You’re talking about individuals who have been educated in our school systems.
“You are talking about the brightest and the most talented group that are already here.”
De La Rosa is an advocate for immigration reform and works with the City of Dodge City to navigate legislative issues.
“People will start losing their driver’s licenses; they will be pulled out of the work force; we will see families being separated, which is already happening; you will see people who have literally been in the United States their entire lives being deported to a country that is not familiar to them, where they may not speak the native language, where they may not have any family.”
De La Rosa is a Dodge City High School graduate; he earned his Master’s Degree in public administration from Wichita State University in 2014. He is well spoken and intelligent. And if the DACA program is not renewed, in July 2019, he can be deported to a country he barely remembers.
“My family came to the U.S. through a visitor’s visa 15 years ago after being sponsored by an uncle who is a United States citizen,” De La Rosa explained. “My family was able to obtain a Visa for 10 years, which we thought would allow us time until our green card would be issued.”
The brokenness of the immigration system has been attested to by the U.S. Bishops in their 2001 pastoral statement, “Welcoming the Strangers Among Us,” and in 2013’s, “Strangers No Longer…”. The mountain of red tape is nearly insurmountable. People are on waiting lists for years or decades. It has been addressed by multiple presidents, including Ronald Reagan, who created an amnesty in exchange for tougher border protection and penalties. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to address the system.
Despite their efforts, the immigration code has not been reformed in more than 30 years. So, it was little surprise that, when asked whether or not he ever received his green card, De La Rosa responded, “We’re still waiting.”
Then came DACA, or the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program. Established in 2012, the program sought to bring the immigrant out of the shadows. DACA allowed individuals who arrived here before age 16 and prior to June 15, 2007—and who were able to pass a stringent background check—to receive a protection from deportation, work permits and driver’s licenses.
For two years, DACA recipients can live without fear of being deported. After two years, they reapply. De La Rosa last renewed in July 2017, which means that if there is no DACA fix, he can be deported as of July 2019.
On Sept. 5, 2017, the DACA program was rescinded by President Donald Trump. In January 2018 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel promised that the issue would be addressed before the March 5 deadline. Hopes remain that an agreement will still be reached. Thanks to a court injunction, “they are accepting DACA renewals but they are not taking any new applications,” De La Rosa explained.
Does he have faith that the issue will be dealt with prior to the March deadline?
“That’s one of the things I struggle with,” De La Rosa said. “Last year, McConnell made the same promise that he would address the issue of DACA in December, yet nothing happened, and here we are again with a promise that the immigration debate will take place.
“That’s where dreamers are skeptical and do not trust legislators on either side of the isle.”
In a Jan. 24 statement to the press, President Trump offered a bit of hope: “We’re going to morph into it,” he told reporters. “It’s going to happen at some point in the future. If they do a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.”
But it includes a trade-off. Trump said he would support legal status for ‘Dreamers’ in exchange for $20 billion in funding for the border wall over a period of seven years.
“We’re talking about a group of people who are educated,” De La Rosa said. “Ninety-seven percent of dreamers are college or high school graduates. We are in different professions, mine happens to be public administration.
“We have to pass background checks through the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), assuring that we don’t have any felonys or serious misdemeanors. If you can’t pass a background check, you are not approved.”
If DACA is not renewed, “We will continue to advocate and push our legislators to address or provide a DACA fix, a permanent solution. If not this year, then hopefully after the 2018 election the political spectrum will change, and congress can deliver a legislation with a permanent solution, hopefully with a pass to citizenship.”