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Legal Decision Could Reinstate DACA Program, Confirm UA Recipients’ Status


Protesters call for support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects eligible young immigrants from deportation, in front of the Washington County Courthouse on Sept. 17, 2017.


A federal judge ruled April 24 against President Donald Trump’s administration's efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which some UA students depend on for legal status, and demanded that DACA be fully reinstated.

DACA, a program created in 2012 under former president Barack Obama’s administration, protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation and makes them eligible for work permits, according to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Within 90 days of the decision, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials must explain in a memo their justification for canceling the program that they claimed was unlawful, according to a decision by U.S. District Judge John Bates. If the legal justification does not satisfy the court, the judge would reinstate DACA, meaning DHS must once again accept new applications.

On Sept. 5, 2017, DHS announced that officials would begin phasing out the DACA. DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke informed current DACA recipients that they could work until their authorizations expired, but DHS officials would reject renewal requests and new applications, according to a DHS memorandum. Judges in New York and California ruled earlier this year that DHS could not deny DACA renewal requests.

When the Trump administration dismantled the program in the fall, some UA students feared what could happen to them, according to an article published Sept. 12, 2017 in The Arkansas Traveler. Eighteen DACA recipients were enrolled at the UofA as of Oct. 17, 2017, said Suzanne McCray, vice provost for enrollment.

UA Latinx Coordinator Magdalena Arroyo helps Latino and Latina students, including some DACA recipients, find careers, internship and scholarship opportunities, she said.

When working with DACA recipients, Arroyo tries to speed the process of finding internships and jobs because of their unstable situations, she said. She focuses on what she can do for them in the short term.

“The DACA recipients all know they have signed up for a wobbly, unstable program, but it’s all they have,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo thinks that her students have stopped depending on DACA to protect them, she said. She thinks that many are not getting their hopes up about the potential reinstatement.

Drew Devenport, an immigration lawyer for Davis, Clark, Butt, Carithers & Taylor, PLC, helps DACA applicants file their renewals, he said. Devenport also worked for the UA School of Law’s Immigration Clinic in fall 2017. Volunteers from the Immigration Clinic helped DACA recipients file their renewal applications.

Devenport thinks that DHS officials are unlikely to appeal Bates’ decision, even though they have 90 days to provide a justification for ending the DACA program, he said. He thinks the 90-day deadline is a cooling period to allow DHS officials to defend their choice and to allow officials time to prepare for new DACA applications.

Bates’ decision would return DACA to a similar state as it was before Sept. 5, 2017, but some additional provisions might not be restored, Devenport said. For example, the way DACA recipients file for permission to leave the country might change. He is not certain what that might look like.

DACA recipient Mishell Quintero thinks that DACA is a good program but not a permanent solution to the problems she and other immigrants face, she said.

When Judge William Alsup in the Federal District Court of San Francisco ruled in January that officials must accept DACA renewal applications again, Quintero was able to renew her DACA protections and work permit, she said. This allowed her to enroll at the UofA in fall 2018.

Eventually Quintero would like to receive citizenship status but thinks that the current administration will try to prevent this, she said.

“As long as he [Trump] is in office, immigrants will always be under attack,” Quintero said.

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