Trump administration puts undocumented community on edge

Trump’s decision to temporary stay a 2012 program that protects “Dreamers” from deportation doesn’t change that.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, speaking at the Homeland Security Department in Washington. (CREDIT: AP IMAGES)
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, speaking at the Homeland Security Department in Washington. (CREDIT: AP IMAGES)

At least for now, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children will not be deported, but their parents could be, thanks to a recent decision from the Trump administration regarding Obama-era immigration policies.

News of this immigration-related announcement broke late Thursday, when U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced the Trump administration is continuing an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented children — but rescinding another that extends this protection to undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children.

Immigrants enrolled in the 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will continue to be eligible to renew their status every two years. DACA recipients, also called “dreamers,” protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from being deported as long as they meet several requirements.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security told the New York Times that “there has been no final determination made about the DACA program” but that, at least for now, the program will remain in effect.

Lenka, who is the mother of two dreamers and one American-born citizen, and who didn’t want to be identified in the press by her full name, was relieved by Trump’s decision to stay the DACA program. But she told ThinkProgress that her rejoice was mixed with worry for herself. Lenka’s 11-year old daughter echoed her mother’s concerns, adding, “If I’m on a bus, I don’t know if she’ll be home [when I return]… this is my country too.”

The DACA temporary stay does not undo the last six months, which have been “devastating” to the immigrant community, Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, a senior lead organizer for the Legal Aid Justice Center, told ThinkProgress. Is he optimistic about Trump’s future immigration policies? Short answer: no.

The Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program is more reflective of Trump’s anti-immigration positions and rhetoric. During one of Trump’s first campaign speeches, he called Mexicans crossing the border “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.” As president, he has ushered a wide net of changes to immigration policy, like intensifying border wall security and immigration agent hires.

The 2014 DAPA program extending protections to parents never took effect because it was blocked in federal court; later, the U.S. Supreme Court let that ruling stand in a 4–4 split decision. Kelly said in a statement that “there was no credible path forward to litigate” the policy.

Even though DAPA wasn’t in place, Trump’s decision to rescind the program is concerning, Marco Grimaldo, board member of Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, told ThinkProgress. It’s a symbolic gesture that he won’t defend undocumented adults.

“Ultimately, we’ve seen a pattern of actions [from this administration] that take on the most vulnerable. And that’s disappointing,” said Grimaldo.

Grimaldo says what’s most concerning was a February executive order that directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, sometimes deporting immigrants with no criminal background.

For instance, Grimaldo recalled a deportation raid in February when a friend of his, who is a pastor at Rising Hope United Methodist Church in Virginia, witnessed homeless people being detained outside a church.

Incidents like that lead Grimaldo to worry about future Trump actions. The Trump administration know where DACA enrollees live, said Grimaldo. “That’s a great deal of information on record,” Grimaldo, “my concern is if it could be used against their parents.”

Aranda-Yanoc said he’s not concerned about information obtained from DACA applications being used against parents. His concern is whether comprehensive immigration reform will ever see the light of day.

Preserving DACA temporarily protects a small portion of kids, he said — DACA protects about 800,000 people in the United States, while DAPA could have protected as many as five million. Why are undocumented children more of an empathetic group than adults? That’s a question for the policy makers, said Aranda-Yanoc.

This piece has been updated to include additional quotes from Lenka and her daughter.