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Dreamers Look Forward To Biden Administration After Being Left In Limbo

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DACA recipients, or Dreamers as they’ve come to be known, have been left in limbo amid the pandemic and the Trump administration's actions to end DACA.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The department of Homeland security has officially announced it's once again, allowing first time applicants to apply for DACA late last week, a federal judge ordered DHS to suspend its limitations on the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, because the court said the acting DHS chief had no authority to limit the program. The ruling comes after a dizzying years, long tug of war between the courts and the Trump administration's efforts to eliminate DACA. The court ruling restores the program just weeks before Joe Biden, who promised to uphold DACA takes office as president of the United States. Johnnie Mae is Dulce Garcia, a San Diego immigration attorney and DACA recipient. Don't say, welcome back to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:46 Thank you, Marine. What does

Speaker 1: 00:48 This ruling do for DACA recipients? What limitations does it take off the program?

Speaker 2: 00:54 It restores the program as it was before Trump attempted to take it away on September 5th, 2017. So it essentially Roberta the program back to how it was announced in 2012, where new applications are now being processed and advanced parole, is that, uh, without the limitations. Uh, so the most recent memo from DHS restricted, our ability to travel abroad only to some circumstances that an officer would find extraordinary and a necessity to leave the country for humanitarian reason. Now, advanced parole restored, and we can travel for educational purposes as well as for work purposes, which is a huge deal for those of us that have been, uh, experiencing death across the border, without the ability to see our families. So more than 300,000 DACA applications are going to now be processed that were, uh, waiting in the last three years to process. So this is actually huge news for the program to not only stay in place, but be reverted back to how it was being implemented before Trump is huge.

Speaker 1: 02:02 It extends DACA authorization back to two years. You don't have to keep applying every year as you, as you were required to just recently, is that right?

Speaker 2: 02:12 Yes. It's going to be an automatic extension of the one-year permits that were issued, uh, since July 28, because of the latest memo from the Wolf administration. Uh, those permits should be extended automatically, and DHS is supposed to provide a notice to every single person that received one of these permits. Um, and the website was updated yesterday. We're pending to see, uh, whether they actually did file this notice as they were instructed to by the court. But that's another big one, you know, as we're going through a pandemic, DHS decided to cut down our permits from two years to one. And that means that we would have to pay the $495 filing fee yearly. So thanks to the efforts from this lawsuit, we revert back to the two work permit. Doesn't this

Speaker 1: 03:00 Ruling follow a us Supreme court order earlier this year that wasn't followed by the department of Homeland sick

Speaker 2: 03:07 Security. Yes, that has been the most frustrating part that we won our case at the Supreme court. We have been winning at every state. We won at the lower court level at the appellate court level and at the Supreme court level, we have been winning against the Trump administration and instead of this administration, uh, just letting DACA stand as it is, they have taken upon themselves to continue to dismantle that and exactly a month later at DHS, uh, under the act and secretary Wolf decided to dismantle again, the program and here we are, where we're winning again yet, another court battle. Um, and it's still not over because the state of Texas is still continuing its efforts to end the program. So that's why it's been such a difficult last few years because although we keep having our wins in court, uh, we still see the administration continually trying to dismantle the program, even after our win at the Supreme court.

Speaker 1: 04:05 What are some of the real life effects of this ruling, restoring DACA? What does it mean weld? What does it mean to you?

Speaker 2: 04:12 It's definitely a day to celebrate because so many people have suffered so much by not knowing what their next steps would be after high school, for example. So we had over a hundred thousand high school students graduated without the certainty of insecurity of a job because they don't have a work permit or to know that they could be deported at any moment. This provides a little bit of peace of mind to know that at least for the time being they're not deportable. And that means everything. Um, these folks that are graduated from high school can know that they're going to be here, uh, lawfully working and being able to pay for their studies. It means everything to have a work permit and be able to provide for your family, this whole process. The last three years highlights the need to have this be a permanent thing to, to have permanent security, to provide a path to citizenship so that all of these issues are not are resolved permanently so that we don't have to constantly worry about how we're going to provide for our families

Speaker 1: 05:17 With Joe Biden, taking office. Are you hopeful that there may be a more permanent resolution for the dreamers people brought to this country as children and even for em, immigration policy in general?

Speaker 2: 05:31 Um, everything, everything depends on what will happen in the Georgia runoff elections, this coming January. So it's important still for us to keep mobilizing and get the vote out in Georgia. So it there's still anxiety. There's still uncertainty. Uh, we'll see, what's going to happen on the Texas hearing, uh, December 22nd. But as I mentioned, really, in order for us to have peace of mind, what we need is a path to citizenship, uh, that was not going to happen with the current president, but as Biden comes into office, we expect that, uh, Biden will be an ally for us in DACA will be continue at the minimum with the hopes of having a path to citizenship. I've been speaking with Dulce Garcia, she's a San Diego immigration attorney and DACA recipient, Dulce. Thank you so much. Thank you again, as the legal battle to reinstate DACA raged on in the courts over the last three years, current and potential DACA recipients were left in limbo, KPBS reporter, Tonya thorn talked with two DACA recipients about their experiences.

Speaker 3: 06:35 I did know that I was undocumented, but I kinda didn't know what that meant. Luna [inaudible] arrived in the U S from Mexico with her parents and younger brother when she was only five years old, when she turned 15, she was eligible to apply for DACA, the deferred action for childhood arrivals. And that process was really intense. I know that for me, I literally just wanted to give up because I was like, is it even worth it? Luna has been documented for four years, approximately 750,000 DACA recipients in the U S have gone through journeys, similar to Luna's. She is now a first-generation college student studying to become a pediatrician or OB GYN. When the pandemic hit Luna needed to help support her family financially until she contracted COVID-19. I wanted to have as minimal contact with them because I know they had jobs or they got sick. Then we would even be in a worse situation. Despite living under the same roof. Luna was the only one in her family to get sick for us to take time off work, to recover. Luna still needed to navigate the ever-changing DACA renewal and pay the $495 filing fee. Kevin Tracy is a San Diego attorney who handles DACA cases. He says, president Trump terminated that guy in 2017 to force Congress to take action.

Speaker 4: 07:57 Congress is the body that an ax immigration legislation, although it was implemented in 2012 for 18 years, before that you had the dream act and the dream act had been in Congress for over 18 years. And they could never agree as to how to implement it.

Speaker 3: 08:20 New DACA applications haven't been taken since the Trump administration suspended the program in 2017. Mary and Martha Garcia is another dreamer who came to the us from Mexico in 2001, when she was one and a half years old, when she turned 15, her parents helped her apply for DACA, granting her driver's license and work authorization. Like I was never discouraged because of my thought, if I just saw something that was like, Oh, like permanent resident than you with it. And I'm like, okay, well I want to put it up. And then I just kept looking for, um, other resources, her perseverance, to look for letter to transfer from community college, to UCS D where she is studying global health and biology.

Speaker 5: 09:02 Marion says her personal experience with DACA

Speaker 3: 09:04 Helped you look at the pandemic from a different point of view, because I live in uncertainty every single day. Like that's my life. So for me, I was like, Oh, okay, well, the government's going to control whatever. And then we're just going to do it, you know? And like, because that's been my life, you know, like the government's like, okay, well now that guy is only one year. And I was like, okay, well now it's 20 years. While the Trump administration continues, its legal fight over DACA, both Luna and Marion have high hopes for president of like Brighton who has pledged to reinstate the program after taking office. I do have high hopes for, um, this new administration and yeah, I mean, all we can do is really wait, hold on, like go out, um, and then show them that we're here and that we're here to stay.

Speaker 1: 09:47 This story was produced with support from the economic hardship reporting project. Joining me now is KPBS North County reporter Tanya thorn, Tonya. Welcome. Thanks for having me, Maureen Luna quarantined successfully when she got COVID, none of her family got sick, but if they had hasn't California tried to calm the fears of undocumented people who might get sick.

Speaker 5: 10:13 You know, we've seen a lot of outbreaks within the Latino communities and there has been an array of resources available to the undocumented community. If they happen to get COVID, you know, there's been resources like food hotels to quarantine in some financial support. But what I got from Luna is that this help ultimately isn't enough to cover rent and other expenses for many households. And that was their biggest worry.

Speaker 1: 10:37 The attorney in your report says the Trump administration tried to terminate DACA to force Congress, to act quite a few people might disagree. That was the president's motive. But even if it's true, it hasn't really worked. Has it

Speaker 5: 10:52 Really hasn't. I mean, from what the attorney said is that the dream act sat in Congress's hands for 18 years before Obama came into office and passed the executive order for DACA. What I think the hold up really is, is whether or not DACA will grant a path to citizenship or residency will DACA recipients then be allowed to petition for their families who entered the country illegally. I mean, if this is an opportunity they get, it would ultimately defeat the system. That's already in place for many applicants who have applied for citizenship, the correct way.

Speaker 1: 11:25 What are Luna and Mary and Mata hoping changes in the new Biden administration. Do they want to see DACA renewed or immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship? You know, both

Speaker 5: 11:38 And Marion are students trying to get into the medical field to help their communities. And I think that access to that opportunity is what they want, whether it's through a DACA renewal, or an immigration reform, of course, both of them hope that citizenship also mean giving their parents a chance to get ahead for their sacrifice and getting them here. I mean, they were able to go to school and get ahead, thanks to them coming here, whether it was illegally and, you know, Biden has stated that one of the first things he will do is reinstate Baca upon taking office. So both of them are very hopeful

Speaker 1: 12:13 And, you know, to a larger issue, it sounds like while living through this pandemic, we could all learn from these DACA recipients, how to live with uncertainty. Tell us more about how these young women, how they stay focused on their dreams, despite the confusion surrounding them. You know,

Speaker 5: 12:31 Couldn't have said it better while the entire world is scrambling wondering when restaurants will open wine, graduations will take place again. When life will go back to normal, they don't have a normal most of their life. And what they're able to do has been determined by the government through Baca. Although we are all limited in one way or another. Now due to the pandemic, there is hope for the future.

Speaker 1: 12:53 Tonya, was there anything that surprised you about doing this report, where you startled by the attitude that Luna and Mary and Mata have about this situation?

Speaker 5: 13:04 Well, Luna is a first-generation college student and she mentioned having to navigate the education system all by herself because she was the first person in her family to go to elementary school, middle school, high school, and now college. And you know, her parents didn't really have a background on what to do with school. So ultimately she had to guide herself into even the DACA application and Marion, you know, her attitude is just a great, I mean, even though she is very limited because of her status and she was granted DACA, I could tell that she just looked on the bright side of things. I mean, she said when she was applying for scholarships and universities and college, if, if some of the requirements, you know, disqualified her, she would just go look for another opportunity. She opened up clubs and just reached out the counselors and her attitude was just very positive throughout her entire situation. And even until now, and looking forward into the future, past the pandemic.

Speaker 1: 14:03 Okay. Then that's why they call them dreamers. I've been joined by KPBS, North County reporter, Tonya thorn, Tanya. Thank you. Thank you, Maureen. After a major federal court ruling last week, the department of Homeland security has now been ordered to start once again, accepting new DACA applications.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.