An information session on the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program was held at North Lake College on Thursday, Sept. 28.
The information session was presented by Proyecto Inmigrante ICS, a legal services provider specializing in immigration counseling. Grethel Brabo and Christina Ibarra, case workers for Proyecto Inmigrante, addressed the crowd in both Spanish and English, informing them on how the DACA repeal would affect individuals previously shielded from deportation by DACA and the steps they should to take to stay safe.
The DACA immigration policy, put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012, allowed immigrants who had illegally entered the country as minors (under the age of 16) to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. Among other requirements was that DACA applicants had to prove they had no felony or serious misdemeanor charges, they either gradated high school or were currently enrolled in school, and they were physically present in the United States at the time DACA was passed.
However, on Sept. 5 of this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on behalf of the Trump administration that the DACA program would be repealed. While DACA and work permits are valid until their expiration dates, new DACA applications will no longer be accepted. Individuals part of DACA with work permits that expire between now and March 5, 2018, must be renew by Oct. 5 of this year. After Oct. 5, they will no longer be able to renew.
Brabo and Ibarra both stressed to the crowd the importance of renewing DACA on time.
“People don’t really know why it’s really important to have DACA and why it’s really important to renew on time,” Brabo said. “If they don’t have a DACA, they don’t have any cover. They don’t have any permit work, and they don’t have a driver’s license, because DACA expires at the same time as your driver’s license.”
Brabo said DACA affects a large number of people in Texas and many of the people who have come to Proyecto Inmigrante have been very disappointed and concerned over the loss of DACA.
“They are disappointed, because so many [people with DACA] own their own businesses,” Brabo said. “They work for their families and they pay the bills and student loans. I think they are really, really worried.”
Beth Nikopolis, Interim Director of the Student Life Office at North Lake College, said she had many students at North Lake come to her with questions and worries after the repeal of DACA. She decided to hold this information session for not just her students, but anyone concerned about the program’s repeal.
“We had students coming to us and they were panicking,” Nikopolis said. “They were afraid they would have to drop out of school because of DACA, and of course, we explained to them that wasn’t the case. But we wanted to make sure we gave our students, the community and our employees the opportunity to ask questions.”
Most of Nikopolis’ DACA students, the interim director admits, are good, hard-working students.
“I have a lot of students who are DACA, and a lot of them are prominent student leaders here on campus and throughout the district,” Nikopolis said. “It’s difficult for me to feel good about it, because I know they’re really serious students, and they work very hard to support their families. They’re good people, and I think if the intent [of repealing DACA] is to limit crime, then these are the wrong people to target.”
Brabo and Ibarra said one of the best things people can do is get informed about DACA and the options available to them.
“[People on DACA] can come into our office, and they need to ask about their best option for changing their status from DACA to another benefit for immigration,” Brabo said. “It’s really important they ask questions, and they need to look up the right information. If they’re from Mexico or wherever they’re from, they need to go to their consulate, because [the consulate can provide access] to lawyers.”