The next Dreamers ally training will be Oct. 27 at the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center. (Lesly Velasco Guerra | The Poly Post)

Undocumented student organizations navigate DACA uncertainty

By Lesly Velasco Guerra, Oct. 19, 2021

The Biden administration opened a 60-day period of public comment for proposed changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Sept. 28. Among the changes is the option for some applicants to apply either for deferred action or employment authorization separately, reducing the cost for those seeking just one or the other.

Cal Poly Pomona and local allies and organizations are keeping up to date with the ever-changing policies to provide information and assistance to DACA recipients, which were estimated to account for 4% of the campus’ student population last semester.

Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, an immigrant’s rights nonprofit in the city of Pomona, offers services and supports low-wage immigrants in the Inland Empire. Laura Moreno, immigration service coordinator at PEOC, explained the financial struggles applicants have faced in the past.

“One of the hardest things to do this year for me was to call the folks and tell them their case is just stuck and that the money that they pay for does not even guarantee for immigration to look at their case,” said Moreno, “so it’s just playing with people’s lives and emotions constantly and that does take a toll on folks.”

Currently, the total cost for DACA and work authorization is $495: $85 for deferred action and $410 for work authorization. In this proposed policy, the applications can be submitted together or separately at a later time. However, an applicant must demonstrate an economic need.

Additionally, the new policy proposal clarifies the term significant misdemeanor and what falls in between those lines. A significant misdemeanor will now be qualified as a specific misdemeanor which would result in automatic bars to DACA. Such specific misdemeanors would be an offense of domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving under the influence, according to the Immigrant Resource Legal Center.

The opportunity for public comment on the proposed changes follows a July ruling by a Texas federal judge that the Obama administration’s original implementation of the program was unlawful, partly for not allowing the opportunity for the public to comment on the policy. As a result, DACA renewals are being accepted and processed, and new applications are being accepted though not processed.

Undocumented Student Services at CPP and CARECEN, a legal service group that works in partnership with the university, have taken initiative to not only support DACA students but also help allies. The Bronco Dreamer Resource Center offers a variety of workshops, informative meetings and events to support students.

“The number one thing is to understand our students, they face different barriers, identities. Their identities intersect and there is a lot of focus on DACA, but we have to see beyond that,” said Mecir Ureta, senior coordinator for CPP Undocumented Student Services, explaining the need to assist undocumented students. “When we think of all the things they have to do just to start school here at Cal Poly or any other campus: They have to do more processing; they have to find what system works for them because the system wasn’t built for undocumented students.”

The next Dreamers ally training will be on Oct. 27 at the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center. (Lesly Velasco Guerra | The Poly Post)

Advance parole, a process that allows DACA recipients to travel outside the U.S. and legally reenter, has remained unchanged. Recipients still must file an application and satisfy the requirements to travel.

Since the policy was proposed, a 60-day period was issued where the public can comment on concerns, questions, negligence or support of the policy.

Along with opening up the opportunity for public comment, the Biden administration appealed the court ruling on Sept. 10 and will now move on to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

According to Elda Rosales, CARECEN staff attorney and CPP correspondent, if the Biden Administration loses, it can appeal the case to the Supreme Court. In 2019, DACA received a victory in the Court when a 5-4 ruling said the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the program was unlawful for failing to follow the Administrative Procedure Act.

Alvaro Huerta, an associate professor in the Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies departments, believes citizenship should be granted to not only DACA recipients but all immigrants. Additionally, he explained the need for public support and action.

“The only reason DACA became DACA was because undocumented youth who were unafraid made it happen,” said Alvaro. “So, they have to make it happen again. It’s only going to come from them and their allies.”

The Bronco Dreamers Resource Center offers ally training for those who wish to engage in critical conversation and support DACA students. For legal assistance, students can contact CARECEN and schedule an appointment with Rosales. Community outreach can also be reached through PEOC.

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