A Maryland federal court ruled the Trump administration must begin accepting new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program applications immediately.
More than three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration could not end DACA, a lower federal court demanded it begin accepting new applications.
The Obama-era program allows people who came to the country as children and meet several guidelines, to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. The program provides nearly 800,000 immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S., but does not provide a path for citizenship.
More than 107,000 DACA recipients live in Texas, according to recent estimates.
According to the Center for American Progress, there are now more than 300,000 people who would be able to apply for DACA, of those, more than 55,500 are young people who turned 15 years of age since September 2017 and are DACA-eligible.
In Texas, nearly 12,000 people are now DACA eligible, CAP data shows.
As reports emerged from DACA-eligible applicants that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was denying their applications, a federal court in Maryland ruled the agency must accept the applications immediately.
According to the order, filed Friday by U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm, USCIS must immediately accept new applications, renewals and advance parole applications, stating the rescission of the “DACA policy is VACATED,” and that the program is restored to its “pre-September 5, 2017, status.”
Jorge De La Fuente, counsel for La Union del Pueblo Entero, a local immigrant-advocacy group, reacted to the news in an interview with The Monitor on Friday.
De La Fuente, a Los Fresnos native, said the ruling from the Maryland court is great news for immigration advocates and first-time DACA applicants who had been unsure about applying.
The uncertainty surrounding the program came as attorneys for DACA-eligible clients were being denied by USCIS, with applications returned stating the service was not accepting the applications.
De La Fuente said LUPE had not yet filed a new DACA application on anyone’s behalf because they were taking a wait-and-see approach to the news of the denials.
He urged anyone who is considering filing to consult an attorney beforehand.
“It’s important for any first-time DACA applicant to consult with an immigration attorney who can review their individual case. We must remain optimistic and continue the fight for dreamers. La Union Del Pueblo Entero is here to answer any questions,” De La Fuente said.
The court’s ruling that the program can continue eases fears for newly eligible DACA applicants who had been unprotected from deportation and other immigration action, but it does little to ease the concerns of those DACA recipients who have been looking for a clear pathway to citizenship.
Angela C., a DACA recipient and Rio Grande Valley native, although relieved of the court’s ruling, said she hopes for the day when the anxiety about her legal status in the country no longer exists.
She recalls that earlier this year she was preparing her employer for the possibility that her DACA renewal would be denied; but her application was renewed in March, giving her peace of mind at least for a few more years.
Although the 22-year-old Peñitas resident does not fall into the 12,000 of those who are newly eligible, she laments the lack of a pathway to citizenship for her and her 26-year-old sister, who is also a DACA recipient.
A current University of Texas Rio Grande Valley English major, Angela spoke timidly about her and her family’s experience living under the threat of deportation in the Valley.
She recalled the fear in the days after the Trump administration announced it was rescinding the program. News broke that several DACA recipients were detained at the Falfurrias checkpoint , despite their legal protected status, as they traveled north.
On Sept. 11, 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents held nearly 10 DACA recipients until attorneys, and subsequently members of Congress made an outcry to CBP officials for their release.
One of those congressmen, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, reacted to Friday’s court ruling.
“I am glad the District Court is ordering the Trump administration to accept DACA applications, but we should not be surprised by this two-faced administration. On the one hand when speaking to the media, Mr. Trump promises a ‘road to citizenship,’ but behind our backs he denies new applications for the DACA program which was upheld by the Supreme Court,” a release from Gonzalez stated.
“The Trump administration has for years ignored and rejected the contributions from DACA participants, and all the while accepting their hard earned tax payments. Rejecting DACA applications flies in the face of the Constitution and the separation of powers our nation is built on.”
Gonzalez added that he would continue to stand with DACA recipients.
Angela said that incident, and others that followed in the subsequent years, made her fearful to travel anywhere — relegating her to South Texas, and denying her opportunities outside the Valley.
During that time, just a few months later, Angela applied for DACA and was approved in February 2018.
But to this day, Angela limits her travel as she fears being vulnerable to deportation.
A senior who is graduating this fall, Angela said she still gets knots in her stomach thinking about all the money, more than $2,000 between her and her older sister, a local elementary school teacher who is also a DACA recipient, for application fees, and everything she’s gone through to stay in the country with her family.
Angela dreams of becoming a teacher, and eventually a chance to become a permanent citizen so she can live in peace, but she said she is unsure if Trump is genuine about a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients like her.
“I know Trump was saying he wants a pathway to citizenship, but I think he’s basically just saying that because of the election,” she said. “He’s been trying to (get rid of) DACA since he got in office, it’s frustrating.”