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National Day Laborer Organization Network and United Methodist Church Protest Deportations at White House

Earlier this month, the National Day Laborer Organization Network petitioned Obama to extend his Deferred Action for childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to “the fullest extent permissible by law.”  The petition also requested the suspension of deportations of individuals who would likely benefit from future immigration reform legislation.  Congressional Democrats have also raised the issue with Obama to extend DACA to include family members of the young people who qualify and to working immigrants to allow them to qualify to stay in the country legally under visas.

DACA, a program created a bit over a year ago by the Obama administration has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of applicants to stay in the United States legally under two-year visas.  People under the age of 30 who were brought into the United States as children, have completed or are currently enrolled in high school and/or college in the United States, and have not left the country recently or committed serious crimes currently qualify for DACA.

On President’s Day, the United Methodist Church and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network organized a protest attended by over 50 people.  Religious leaders, immigrants, and supporters gathered in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House to sing songs and hold signs protesting Obama’s deportation policy which has caused 2 million people to be deported in the five years he has been in office.  By comparison, 2 million people were deported in the full eight years George Bush was in office.  After three warnings, police began to make arrests.

Obama stresses that there is only so much he can do to extend this program and enact immigration reform without congressional approval, urging members of Congress to continue to push for immigration legislation.

Source: Delmore, Erin.  “Immigration protest sparks arrest outside White House,” MSNBC.  February 17, 2014.  http://www.msnbc.com/all/activists-arrested-outside-white-house

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Pretests Readiness for Widespread Immigration Reform

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, authorized by President Obama in June of 2012 has turned out to be a much-needed testing grounds for what changes need to be made to carry out broader immigration reform.  Political sciences assistant professor of University of California San Diego and researcher of DACA Tom Wong explains, “DACA represents an important trial run for a larger legalization process.”

Since DACA was announced, about 75% of all applicants have been accepted to remain in the United States.  An estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants qualified for this program which is open to immigrants ages 15-30 with high school diplomas, GEDs, or are enrolled in US schools, who have not left the country since June of 2007, and have not committed any serious crimes.  As was to be expected, they came forward and applied in enormous numbers.  What wasn’t expected was where they would all come from.

States like California, Texas, New York, and Illinois have the highest number of Mexican immigrants.  However, these assumptions created hiccups in the DACA process.  While these states had the most Mexican immigrants, serving immigrants from countries besides Mexico–especially immigrants who couldn’t speak English or Spanish–needs a lot more work and a lot more resources and local organizations to support these applicants.  Also, the states with the most applicants turned out to be none of the top states populated with Mexican immigrants.  Georgia, North Carolina, and Indiana were the states with the most applicants and underestimations of the traffic they would receive caused many a hiccup.

Another important aspect of DACA that needed some streamlining was specifying which documents were acceptable for proving continuous residence.  Since employers are wary of documenting illegal workers, people were bringing forth hospital bills, social media documentation, and utility bills.  It has since been made clear that utility bills and hospital bills will be accepted.  The school systems in these states have also been flooded with transcript requests.

All of these hold-ups have created bottlenecks in the process that have lead to long turn-around times, during which applicants have gotten deported, visas have run out, and lives have been torn apart.  At the same time, these applicants are educated, responsible members of the United States’ population and loosing them due to lengthy application processing time is not in our best interest.

In the first sixty days since DACA was announced, almost 600,000 people applied.  This has not slowed down.  Hopefully we can learn how to streamline application and turn around, as well as best serving all applicants and supporting the communities that will have to scramble for transcripts and utilities bills, from the challenges, surprises, and hiccups of DACA moving forward into broader immigration reform.

Source: Wides-Munoz, Laura.  “Immigration Reform Gets Broader Lessons from Deferred Action,” Huffington Post.  November 17th, 2013.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/immigration-reform-deferred-action_n_4295563.html