For Ines Martinez, applying for the DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, represented a ray of hope during the coronavirus pandemic.
Seven months into her application process, Martinez was eager to join the federal program that has enabled more than 600,000 teens and young adults without legal status after being brought to the United States as children – also called Dreamers – to study and work without fear of expulsion.
“I was very confident that I would be approved, because I am a good candidate. I qualify for the program, ”said Martinez, 19. Her confidence increased last month when Citizenship and Immigration Services asked her to come and do her biometrics, one of the last steps in the application process, in which authorities take photos of applicants. and fingerprints.
The only thing between Martinez, who lives in California, and getting a job was an official approval letter from the immigration agency. She couldn’t wait to work to finish paying for her car and save enough money to quit community college and pursue communications and international studies at a four-year university.
But she never received her DACA acceptance letter. Instead, a Texas federal judge ruled the program illegal last Friday. While DACA renewals will continue to advance, the decision has stalled the approval of new applications, leaving Martinez and thousands of other applicants on hold.
After investing so much time, money and effort, “to have this happen twice already, it’s just devastating,” Martinez said. The first time was when she was initially barred from applying after President Donald Trump temporarily terminated DACA in 2017.
Citizenship and Immigration Services received more than 50,000 DACA applications from January to March after announcing they would start accepting new applicants in December. But most of the requests were never processed as obstacles related to the pandemic limited capacity amid increased demand, the agency said.
Julian Cornejo, 21, one of the new DACA applicants, said he had “not really” heard from the immigration agency since he applied for the DACA in March. Following the Texas court ruling, his immigration attorney told him that “all DACA applicants can stay in limbo” indefinitely.
The decision came in a lawsuit brought by Texas and eight other Republican-led states. They claimed that the Obama administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act with the creation of the DACA by failing to publish the proposal and seek public comment before attempting to implement it.
Cornejo, who lives in Florida, was eager to enroll in college, work and get a driver’s license once he achieved DACA status. “I was very frustrated and I felt very disappointed,” he said.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., The first and only Latina in the Senate, lambasted the Biden administration last month over the backlog of extreme cases affecting new DACA candidates like Cornejo. She also called on citizenship and immigration services to reduce wait times for DACA renewals, saying the delays were “a legacy of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.”
On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris said she had met dreamers and advocates of “discuss the way forward. “
“Dreamers serve in the military and on the front lines, get degrees and run businesses. They shouldn’t live with such uncertainty,” she tweeted after the meeting.
‘It keeps happening’
Michelle Lainez, 19, called some of her friends on FaceTime and cried after the latest court ruling.
Lainez, a sophomore at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC, who is a recipient of TheDream.US scholarship, recalled standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol last summer while waiting for the Supreme Court speaks out in favor of DACA, saying the Trump administration has not given sufficient reason to end it.
“I’m a little tired of being resilient. I protested, I organized the Supreme Court decision so much. And now I have to do the same for that, ”said Lainez, who lives in Maryland. “It keeps happening, so it’s a little disheartening.”
After submitting his application in March and having his biometrics done two months later, Lainez felt his DACA approval was almost a done deal. So she started to apply for her Licensed Practical Nurse License and was waiting for her work permit to start a job as a Nursing Assistant in Geriatrics.
“I’ve had so many offers, but now that my candidacy has been suspended I can’t even go to the interviews,” Lainez said.
As the Justice Department considers appealing the court’s ruling, the ruling reignited calls from immigration advocates to put further pressure on Congress and the Biden administration to come up with a permanent solution. , not only for DACA-eligible youth, but also for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States
“We can no longer talk about DACA. It must concern everyone. It has to be a path to citizenship, not just repairing DACA, ”Lainez said. “I want a permanent solution, because we deserve it. We are not going to beg him. We demand it, because we have worked for it.
Martinez agreed that the recent court battles have come “to show how vulnerable and unstable DACA really is”.
“There has to be something that provides permanent protection for all of us,” she said. “DACA is good, but what about our parents? What about the new generation of undocumented youth arriving? They are not eligible for this program.
Cortez Masto, who has long advocated for the passage of legislation to put dreamers on the path to full citizenship, said in a statement that she remains committed to pushing through comprehensive immigration reform in the country. Senate.
“Dreamers play a vital role in our communities and they deserve to stay in the only home they have ever known without fear of being evicted,” she said. “Last week’s decision made it clear that we must take immediate action to protect DACA beneficiaries.”
Lainez, Cornejo and Martinez, who are part of the national immigrant-led organization United We Dream, are advocating for Congress to create a path to citizenship through the budget and reconciliation package debated in the Senate. Cortez Masto agrees.
“We should seize this opportunity through reconciliation to finally carry out immigration reform,” she said.
Harris echoed Cortez Masto’s words by tweeting: “Congress must create a path to citizenship through reconciliation or other means. ”
Following the devastating news from DACA, Martinez began to wonder if the program “was ever meant for me.”
“Maybe that’s a sign,” she said hopefully. “And maybe it’s because there is something better in store in the future. … Ideally, this would be permanent protection and a path to citizenship, not only for me, but ideally for my parents as well.
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