Since President Donald Trump announced last month that his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DACA recipients, often called “dreamers,” their families and many others in our community are taking action and searching for solutions. The DACA program was created in 2012 by the Obama administration as limited protection for young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children without authorization. DACA was put in place to protect hundreds of thousands of young people who have lived and gone to school in the United States, contributed to and been outstanding members of our communities, until Congress could achieve a more permanent solution.
DACA grants no immigration status to the dreamers, nor is it “amnesty” or a path to citizenship. Rather, DACA recipients are granted authorization to work and to continue their education in two-year increments. On September 5, the Trump administration announced it would end the DACA program. On that date, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting new DACA applications. Those DACA recipients whose status expires between September 5, 2017 and March 8, 2018, were given until October 5, 2017 to apply for a two-year renewal of their DACA status. All other DACA recipients will lose that status and their employment authorization when their current status expires.
Currently, there are 886,814 DACA recipients in the U.S. with 7,488 in Tulsa. More than 90 percent of the Oklahoma DACA-eligible populace are at least 16 years old and are employed, earning nearly $146.3 million annually and contributing more than $20.3 million in taxes according to the Tulsa World.
Read about the Tulsa Community’s reaction to the DACA rescission, including an interview with Professor Elizabeth McCormick here.
“Oklahomans enrolled in DACA have few, if any, options to become documented,” said TU Law Associate Clinical Professor Elizabeth McCormick, who teaches in the Immigrant Rights Project clinical program and has expertise in immigration, refugee and asylum law. “There is nothing that the current administration is doing to create new options for them. I recommend that DACA enrollees should consult with an experienced immigration attorney about options. There aren’t a lot of options and that’s why most of these kids applied for DACA in the first place.”
Congress has been attempting to pass the Dream Act for 17 years, but currently there is no legislative pathway that creates an opportunity for these children, now adults, to remain the U.S. In fact, it’s been at least 50 years since laws regarding the avenues for legal immigration were updated. If we don’t change the laws in a way that creates avenues for legal immigration to the U.S., it will never fix the problem entirely,” said McCormick.
According to TU Law’s Mimi Marton, director of the TU Law Co-op and the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network, there are additional complications for “dreamers” in Tulsa. “Due to agreements between Tulsa County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), each person booked into the David. L. Moss Criminal Justice Center is checked by ICE for immigration status. Those who are without status, are put into immigration proceedings often leading to the deportation of long-time residents with no criminal history who have, for example, unpaid traffic violations.” Marton pointed out that the City of Tulsa has approved a plan to create a separate city jail so that those who have only city violations will not be booked at David L. Moss. City official says that the new jail will mitigate a lot of fear among undocumented residents in Tulsa County and will provide a mechanism for those residents to pay parking fines without fear of deportation.
See an interview with TU Law’s Mimi Marton regarding the proposed city jail here.
TU President Gerard P. Clancy has joined with hundreds of other university leaders to encourage elected officials to uphold DACA. TU is a richly diverse campus willing to accept and empower students regardless of immigration status and implores policy makers to maintain and open dialogue and help young “dreamers” pave a path to citizenship.
Several organizations in the Tulsa area have held information sessions regarding DACA including the YWCA, which has offered 500 free legal consultations to DACA enrollees. TU Law students recently helped staff a DACA renewal clinic in collaboration with Dream Act Oklahoma and several local attorneys to provide free legal assistance to the dreamers eligible to renew their DACA one last time.