Thousands of people face deportation if the U.S. Congress does not approve funding to continue the DACA program. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, protects more than 700,000 people who came to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants. They are also undocumented. Thousands of those people are in the Cape Fear Region.
DACA allows some people who came to the U.S. as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 people —referred to as Dreamers after the DREAM Act bill— enrolled in the program.
The Obama administration established the policy in 2012 and was targeted for removal by the Trump Administration last year.
“With everything that’s going on at the moment, what it really means is that everything is up in the air. There is no certainty about what could happen.”
Josue Carlos Gonzalez is a college student in Wilmington. He’s from Mexico, and has been in the U.S. since age six.
“I’m hoping that everything will happen in a positive way, that something will come about from Congress and the government to allow people in my situation to have some sort of status and relief to continue being in here the United States legally.”
The Trump administration last year said DACA would end on March 5 and ordered federal agencies to stop accepting applications to renew DACA statuses in early October. Then two weeks ago, a federal judge in San Francisco entered a nationwide order forcing the government to revive the program, and resume accepting renewal applications.
That’s when the Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let the government go ahead with its plan to end the program. Add the spending bill that Republicans, Democrats and the White house are debating in Washington, and it gets complicated.
Antonio Puente is a professor of psychology at UNCW, and president of the American Psychological Association. He’s also an immigrant.
“And the challenge before Congress at this particular juncture, is can they address the spending bill, and the short-term spending bill, independently of DACA? The question before Congress, I believe, is can they address this in a way that is bipartisan?”
Wilmington-based immigration attorney Helen Tarokic.
“It is just one more aggression against race and ethnicity that I see on a daily basis through the directives of the White House.”
Tarokic does give high marks to Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who, she says, has stepped in in the past to support her office’s efforts with DACA recipients.
He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Meanwhile Thom Tillis, the other Republican Senator for the state, is working with Senate Democrats on a bipartisan DACA agreement. However he posted a statement on his website that discussions on border security and enforcement with Democrats are much further apart, and that is the key to getting a deal on DACA.
UNCW professor Antonio Puente.
“I was an undocumented immigrant for many years. I’m very fortunate and very thankful that this country gave me an opportunity. It is not unusual in this country to be given a second chance and I as an undocumented person who became president of the largest psychological association in the world, is most thankful and I’m doing my very best every day to thank not only this country but the opportunities that have been afforded to me. May that opportunity be afforded to others.”
He says the time is now.
“We have to have a serious discussion in our country, about immigration reform once and for all. We can’t keep kicking this can down the road, especially in a world that is so migratory in nature.”