It’s been more than six months since President Trump announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children from deportation. March 5 was set as a deadline for Congress to create new legislation to protect DACA recipients, but now that deadline has come and gone.
Multiple federal judges ruled in February that the Trump administration lacked justification to end the program and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to renew all existing DACA permits.
Although DACA recipients remain safe from deportation for now, their future in the United States remains uncertain.
Bryan Torres, a 24-year-old Northampton resident and DACA recipient from El Salvador, recently graduated from Amherst College and said he’s worried about his future as he begins to enter the workforce.
“We’re not sure what’s going to happen,” he said. “I think it’s making things more difficult … We’re basically in a limbo status. They set one deadline and then they set another deadline and nothing has changed.”
Eduardo Samaniego, a 25-year-old Hampshire College student, member of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, is not a DACA recipient. But he has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of all immigrants.
Samaniego is currently in Washington D.C. calling for the federal government to grant undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship alongside 3,000 of other people on a day of action coinciding with the March 5 deadline.
While he spoke to the Valley Advocate, thousands of people blocked an intersection near the Supreme Court while protesting the lack of action on DACA. At least 100 people are anticipated to be arrested on March 5 at the protest, Samaniego said.
“Those who have DACA can still renew it, however the 800,000 people who qualify for DACA are still in the limbo today because we don’t know if tomorrow Trump’s going to issue some other executive order and actually end DACA in a way that he can do through executive order,” Samaniego said. “Still, March 5 has urgency and it’s such an important moment here and throughout the entire country for us to take action and continue to remind people that we cannot have this arbitrary deadline as to how and when DACA will end.”
He said the courts are unable to create temporary solutions, and he thinks the best solution would be for Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens.
“Speaking with other Dreamers, they continue to be completely disillusioned with Congress,” Samaniego said. “We can’t believe that a DREAM Act that has 86 percent of the public’s support across party lines … is still not being passed in Congress.”
In February, Samaniego made a 250-mile trek from New York City to Washington D.C. over the course of two weeks. He and other undocumented immigrants walked from New York and through states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.
He said most people across the country welcomed him with open arms and anti-immigrant sentiments aren’t as commonplace as some people believe.
“They were so upset at our government and they still couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a DREAM Act and that we were walking 250 miles because of this,” he said.
Massachusetts State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said he thinks the federal government has done next to nothing to solve the uncertainty many young adult DACA recipients are experiencing.
“For the federal government to create the kind of uncertainty that they are creating for hundreds of thousands of people is just really unconscionable. The fact that they let another deadline come and go without action is wrong and they really ought to get their act together down there and fix this problem,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg said a piece of legislation moving through the state that could protected undocumented immigrants, the Safe Communities Act, isn’t particularly helpful for DACA recipients.
“My impression is the Safe Communities Act is most useful and most helpful when there’s going to be interaction with the police,” he said. “And the individuals who are involved with the DACA situation are people who are successfully engaging with society and are not intersecting with the law. It doesn’t mean that there’s zero chance that the Safe Communities Act could be helpful to some DACA people.”
The Safe Communities Act would ensure basic due process for undocumented immigrants, would ban a Muslim registry in the state, prohibit immigration enforcement officers from deputizing local law enforcement, and make sure police department’s aren’t involved in immigration enforcement, according to the bill.
State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose (Amherst) said he believes the state should be doing more to protect its immigrants.
“I’ve supported the Safe Communities Act since its introduction, and was thrilled to see a compromise version recently get the unanimous endorsement of the State Police Chiefs Association. I hope we take up and pass this commonsense bill this year.”