Local organizations respond to DACA injunction with some optimism
A ruling by a federal judge against the Trump administration's shutdown of a program that protects certain young immigrants has been met with both optimism and trepidation by local organizations. The Jan. 9 decision by a federal district judge in San Francisco ordered the administration to allow recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, to renew their protections.
DACA, an administrative program created under former President Barack Obama in 2012, provides a protected status to certain immigrants who entered the country illegally as children. The program has protected nearly 790,000 immigrants from deportation since its inception, according to the Pew Research Center.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September that the Trump administration would no longer accept new applications for the program and gave an October deadline to those eligible to renew their DACA protections.
The Jan. 9 ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by the University of California against the Department of Homeland Security challenging the administration's rescinding of DACA. Judge William Alsup ruled that the administration must "maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis," adding that the administration isn't obligated to process new applications.
"In terminating DACA, the administrative record failed to address the 689,800 young people who had come to rely on DACA to live and to work in this country. These individuals had submitted substantial personal identifying information to the government, paid hefty fees, and planned their lives according to the dictates of DACA," Alsup wrote in the decision. "The administrative record includes no consideration to the disruption a rescission would have on the lives of DACA recipients, let alone their families, employers and employees, schools and communities."
On Jan. 13, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees DACA, posted to its website saying the agency has resumed accepting requests to renew DACA as a result of the injunction. "Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017," the statement reads. "If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016, you may still file your DACA request as a renewal request."
However, local immigrant rights leaders and politicians representing Woodburn have expressed optimism along with some trepidation about the injunction.
"While this is a victory for DACA recipients who need to renew their status … it's one step in a much longer, bigger issue," said Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa Oregon, an immigrant rights organization based in Salem. "For people with DACA, their lives still hang in the limbo as Congress considers a permanent solution, which would be the DREAM Act, which is just as urgent and important as ever before."
Williams said the injunction is a victory only for a small number of DACA recipients — those eligible for a renewal — and that it's unclear how long the window to renew will remain open.
Williams said it's likely the court decision will be appealed, and thus could be overturned. Plus, Williams said that while she's happy with the court ruling, it's still far from being a permanent solution. That's because DACA was an administrative program not passed by Congress.
"DACA was always temporary. It was a presidential administrative fix," Williams said. "We always knew that it could be taken away by a president, by a single power. The real solution lies in Congress passing a bill that would allow these undocumented young people who have DACA to actually stay here permanently."
Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Canby who represents Woodburn, echoed that sentiment.
"News last night that young folks will be able to continue to renew their DACA status another few months is welcome, but it does not go far enough," Schrader said in a press release on Jan. 10. "My Republican colleagues have dragged their feet long enough and played more than enough political games. Dreamers' legal status will end in less than two months unless we take action. Let's get it together and vote on a clean Dream Act because all we're doing now is playing with people's lives."