Some ‘dreamers’ missing deadline to renew protection from deportation

Ana Radelat / CTMirror.org

Camila Bortolleto and Angelica Idrovo, activists with CT Students for a Dream.

Washington – Not all young, undocumented immigrants who were given protection from deportation by an Obama-era policy are going to meet a Oct. 5 deadline set by President Donald Trump for renewing  their permission to live and work in the United States for another two years.

A month ago, Trump announced he is ending the Deferred Protection for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, instituted by President Obama in 2012, after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

DACA recipients, known as “dreamers,” were mostly brought to the United States by their parents without documentation but met certain requirements, including having arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday, having been currently in school or having graduated from high school, and having no conviction for a crime or “significant misdemeanor.”  The DACA protections had to be renewed every two years.

While Trump is phasing out the program, he allowed those whose protections would expire by March 5, 2018, to renew them for another two years. But they had to do so by Oct. 5.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, as of late Wednesday about 112,000 young undocumented immigrants — about 72 percent of those eligible — had applied to renew their work permits ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

Despite pleas from advocates in hurricane-ravaged Texas and Florida, the federal government did not extend the deadline to accommodate immigrants in those areas who may have had difficulty gathering the necessary paperwork and $495 fee.

DHS officials are, however, accepting late filings on a case-by-case basis from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Federal officials said they did not know what happened to the remaining 42,000 eligible DACA recipients who had not filed their renewal applications by Tuesday.

About 10,000 youth in Connecticut are eligible for DACA protections. It’s not clear how many who were eligible renewed their DACA status on time.

Camila Bortolleto, a DACA recipient and activist for Connecticut Students for a Dream, said some immigrant youths struggled to secure the $495 filing fee by Trump’s deadline.

“It was too soon and it was very arbitrary,” she said of the Oct. 5 date.

She also said some families contain several dreamers, putting additional pressure on them to come up with their filing fees during the 30-day period Trump allowed.

To try to help, Connecticut Students for a Dream held several free legal clinics, the last one Saturday in Hartford, to help dreamers file for renewed status. The organization also offered 70 “scholarships in the amount of $495 to help dreamers pay the filing fee. Bortolleto said 66 scholarships had been given out as of Monday.

On Wednesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus asked the Trump administration to extend the Thursday deadline to at least Jan. 5, 2018.

“The 30-day period that the administration gave Dreamers to renew their status was arbitrary and frankly dangerous,” said a letter from the lawmakers to Acting Secretary Elaine Duke. “We are very concerned that because DACA recipients were not individually notified of their eligibility for renewal, tens of thousands of DACA recipients could lose their work authorization and DACA status protection.”

Several Connecticut lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, also have asked for a deadline extension.

“Dreamers go to our schools, serve in our military, and support our economy,” Blumenthal said. “Dreamers have friends and a life here – for most of them, it’s the only life they’ve known. This country is the country they love, and English is the language they speak, and deporting them would be cruel and irrational, inhumane and – very simply – repugnant to basic American values.”

The Trump administration has been deaf to pleas to extend the deadline. But Trump has pushed Congress to pass legislation that would give permanent protection to the nation’s dreamers.

Bortolleto said Trump’s DACA deadline on Thursday will mark the beginning of a fight in Congress over what to do about the dreamers.

“DACA might be over, but the legislative battle will pick up steam,” she said.

Dreamers and their advocates prefer a bill called the DREAM Act, that would provide the immigrant youths with a path to citizenship.

But Republicans have introduced rival legislation known as the SUCCEED Act, that also would provide dreamers a pathway to citizenship, but only after 15 years.

And unlike other U.S. citizens, naturalized dreamers would be barred under the SUCCEED Act from petitioning for their undocumented parents to obtain legal status. They also would be required to sign a waiver that would allow federal immigration officials to deport them without an immigration hearing if they violate the bill’s provisions.

Dreamers and their advocates opposed the SUCCEED Act’s restrictions. They also are opposed to attaching any immigration enforcement action, including authority to spend money on Trump’s proposed wall between the United States and Mexico, to dreamer legislation.

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