The once-looming March 5 deadline President Donald Trump set for Congress to create a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has passed. However, the program has not ended.
The Supreme Court declined to take on a case about Trump’s termination of the program, meaning those protected may still apply for renewal.
Lana Heath de Martinez with the Virginia Interfaith Center said even though DACA remains in effect, it won’t be long before its recipients are subject to deportation.
“It’s terrifying beyond what I can imagine,” Martinez said. “When DACA ends, those who currently hold DACA will be walking targets for the deportation regime. (They) will lose access to higher education and be at risk every time they get on the road.”
More than 70 VCU students will be affected when the program officially ends.
DACA is an immigration policy established by the Obama Administration which protects undocumented children coming into the U.S. The policy provides qualifying members access to health care, driver’s licenses and college education at an in-state tuition rate. As of 2017, more than 800,000 minors — 12,000 of whom reside in Virginia — have come to the U.S. illegally, qualifying for DACA, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Trump administration made plans to slowly phase out the Obama-era executive action in September 2017.
Following Trump’s announcement of the DACA phase-out, VCU Pres. Michael Rao expressed the university’s support for students who are DACA recipients.
“DACA students are an integral part of our community, and VCU will continue to assist DACA students as they complete their educations and move on to contribute to our society,” Rao said.
Earlier this year, the university reiterated its commitment.
“We are at a critical juncture to arrive at a solution that most people in the country agree upon,” Rao said. “We must enable DACA students to continue their educations and live their lives in the commonwealth and in the United States.”
Legislators have hit a wall in deciding the future of young adults protected by DACA. The unsettled immigration topic resulted in a government shutdown earlier this year. Martinez said the discussion has stalled for so long because the clashing viewpoints in Congress make it impossible to meet in the middle.
“We need a real legislative solution that does not exclude children based on their arrival dates or punish people as criminals when they were just seeking life and liberty for their families,” Martinez said.
Martinez said the most valuable tool everyday individuals have is their own voice.
“Communities need to know and invest in immigrants, and build relationships with people who are different,” Martinez said. “Our collective well-being depends on active solidarity with those who have been marginalized and attacked.”
Saffeya Ahmed, Staff Writer