Ten years after DACA, undocumented youths across the nation need further change

Photo: AdobeStock

Last week, President Joe Biden moved to codify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by finalizing a rule to transform DACA into a federal regulation, a move that would help strengthen the legality of the program and benefit many undocumented youths. As a formerly undocumented person, I know just how much DACA can change lives.

My life was changed 10 years ago when I applied for DACA in August 2012.

The program, announced in June 2012, allowed undocumented youths who had arrived as children, lived in the United States continuously since 2007, and met a few other criteria to apply for a renewable two-year work permit. When DACA was first announced, it seemed like a dream, but shortly after, it became a reality. The immediate and persistent fear of being deported and separated from my family and my home in Kansas City no longer loomed over my head.

That day in 2012, I stood clutching my paperwork, evidence that Kansas City was my home, at Guadalupe Center’s free DACA clinic. Biden recently said that day was a proud moment for him. For me, it was a moment of hope. I could imagine opportunities for my future: I would finally be able to work and get my driver’s license.

As I waited in line with hundreds of other undocumented youths, I reflected on the fact that this temporary protection was not given to us. It was won through years of advocacy and organizing powered by immigrant youths — often referred to as “Dreamers” — and I was proud to count myself among one of them. It taught me a lesson that we must always remember: real change happens when ordinary people come together to demand it. Read more

“Thanks, and God bless you”: Asylum-seekers allowed to enter U.S. after “remain in Mexico” ends

Willian, a 46-year-old asylum-seeker from Ecuador, waits for a ride outside the Annunciation House after leaving immigration court in El Paso on Tuesday. Credit:
Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune

Two weeks after a federal judge allowed the Biden administration to end the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, U.S. judges are beginning to allow migrants to stay in the country as their asylum claims are pending.

EL PASO — Willian woke up before dawn on a recent Tuesday, packed his legal documents into a blue folder and got in a van with other migrants to one of the international bridges that connect El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

At the port of entry, the 46-year-old asylum-seeker from Ecuador was disenrolled from the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled the Biden administration had the right to formally end the Trump-era policy. The program, also known as “remain in Mexico,” forced thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases made their way through U.S. courts.

Immigration officials transported Willian and at least eight other migrants to El Paso’s immigration court, where judges gave them all permission to stay in the U.S. They can continue their asylum cases in courts closest to wherever they settle.

After his hearing, Willian — who asked to be identified by his first name out of fear that criminals in Ecuador may target his family — walked out of the courthouse and felt a sense of relief wash over him. At a migrant shelter a few blocks away, he waited for his niece to pick him up before he caught a flight to New York City. He plans to stay with his sister-in-law there until his asylum case is decided.

It was his first time stepping on American soil as a free person after waiting a month in a Ciudad Juárez shelter.

“I think I’m finally going to be able to get a good night’s sleep. In Juárez, I couldn’t sleep very well,” Willian said as he stood outside Annunciation House, where a volunteer was administering rapid COVID-19 tests to migrants before they entered.

Willian is among the 7,112 who were enrolled in “remain in Mexico” and were returned to Mexico following initial enrollment under the Biden administration after Amarillo-based U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ordered it to restart the program in December. Immigrant rights advocates said the program had put vulnerable asylum-seekers in dangerous situations in Mexican border cities. Read more

Cooper vetoes latest version of controversial immigration proposal

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the “ICE 2.0” bill Monday afternoon, a Republican-backed measure that would have required sheriffs’ offices across the state to hold people accused of certain serious crimes in jail for up to 48 hours after they would have been released so that they can be taken into custody by federal immigration officials.

“This law is only about scoring political points and using fear to divide North Carolinians,” Cooper said in a statement. “As the state’s former top law enforcement officer, I know that current law already allows the state to incarcerate and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status. This bill is unconstitutional and weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating that sheriffs do the job of federal agents, using local resources that could hurt their ability to protect their counties.”

Advocacy organizations like the ACLU of North Carolina had called on the governor to veto the bill after legislators sent it to his desk on July 1. They warned that the new policy could force jailers to incarcerate people without probable cause, violating people’s Fourth Amendment rights. They also claimed the proposal would sow distrust and fear among immigrant communities, fraying ties with local law enforcement.

Democrats spoke out against the bill when it was in committee, worrying it would add financial burdens to already under-resourced local jails. Republicans, meanwhile, framed the proposal as a public safety issue. Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe) was unable to say how much it would cost counties to comply with the federal detainer requests — “There’s not been a study on what the costs are,” he said on the Senate floor —  but, whatever it is, it’s “incidental to the potential danger in our communities.”

Legislators passed a similar bill in 2019. Cooper vetoed that one, too.

Courts take the lead role as U.S. immigration policy remains in limbo

NC House committee advances “2.0 version” of controversial ICE detainer bill

Wake County community organizer Griselda Alonso testified Tuesday with the help of a translator in a House Judiciary committee that a new proposal to involve NC sheriffs in immigration enforcement work would split families apart. Photo: Screenshot from ncleg.gov feed.

Members of a House Judiciary committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would require sheriff’s offices across North Carolina to hold people accused of certain serious crimes in jail for up to 48 hours so that they can be taken into custody by federal immigration officials.

The bill continues a debate that stretches back to at least 2019, over whether local law enforcement authorities should cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detainer requests, which essentially ask county jails to continue incarcerating people for 48 hours beyond when they would have otherwise been released, so they can be picked up by ICE. Proponents of the bill framed it as a public safety issue, while opponents warned it would burden already under-resourced county jails and leave them legally liable if they unlawfully detain someone.

Legislators passed a similar bill in 2019. That measure required sheriff’s offices across the state to honor ICE detainer requests. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it.

The new proposal, Senate Bill 101, is the “2.0 version” of the 2019 bill, Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe) told his House colleagues Tuesday. It is not as wide-ranging as the 2019 bill, Edwards said, as it only requires officials to ask ICE about a person’s immigration status when that individual is “accused of the most heinous crimes and brought to jail.” Unlike the bill from three years ago, it also would not impose criminal penalties against those who do not comply.

“It will require local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials in the interest of public safety and growing public concerns,” said Edwards.

Sen. Chuck Edwards

Edwards was unable to say whether county governments would be compensated for honoring the ICE detainer requests, but said it costs between $137 and $300 to further incarcerate a person to comply with the detainer.

“I would ask any member of this body to imagine, ‘Would you want to stand in front of a family member of a victim of a crime and tell them the reason that they were subjected to that crime could have been because somebody wanted to save, maybe, $137?’” he asked. “Quite frankly, there will be some cost involved. And I can’t remember the mechanics of who funds that, but I think it’s incidental to the potential danger in our communities.”

Democrats said they were concerned about the measure’s impact on local jails already facing challenges.

“We’re adding work to their offices,” said Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham). “These offices are understaffed. And so we’re adding to their workload, we’re adding to the financial burden for the sheriff’s offices in the counties by undertaking this bill.”

Edwards said that if the requirements laid out in the bill became a financial burden for sheriff’s offices, it “would be an illustration of just how desperately that this bill is needed, because that means that there would be more folks charged with more heinous crimes that would be required to be detained.”

Rep. Vernetta Alston

Rep. Brandon Lofton

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association supported the 2019 bill, Edwards said, but has not taken a position on the current proposal.

Alston said the bill also raises constitutional concerns, since people will remain in jail for longer than they otherwise would have if they hadn’t been subjected to a detainer. Plus, they could be denied due process in North Carolina courts if they are transferred to immigration detention centers out of state.

Rep. Brandon Lofton (D-Mecklenburg) mentioned 287(g), a voluntary agreement between ICE and local law enforcement agencies that allows local officials to act as federal immigration agents in county jails. A legislative staffer at the hearing stressed that the bill was different from 287(g), but Lofton said there were similarities in that the bill would essentially make it mandatory to comply with certain provisions. He also said it was telling that just 15 out of 100 counties across North Carolina voluntarily participate in the program.

“I think it’s based on harmful stereotypes,” said Lofton.

Others warned that the bill could put local officials at risk of violating people’s constitutional rights, forcing them to pay settlements for people who are unlawfully detained.

Rep. Mary Belk

“I am concerned that there is no way for us to protect our sheriffs or our corrections department from being hauled into federal civil court and forced to pay settlements for wrongful detention because Immigration and Customs has made a mistake,” said Rep. Mary Belk (D-Mecklenburg). “I don’t see why we should put these agencies who are already experiencing shortages of personnel and resources in a position where they need to spend resources to assist federal immigration officials and then pay for any mistakes that they have made as well.”

Two members of the public spoke against the bill before lawmakers advanced it. Griselda Alonso, a community organizer in Wake County, said the measure would split families apart, and warned there would be political consequences if the bill passes.

“Many of us have children and family members who can vote, and although some of us can’t cast the ballot, we can influence our community to vote in favor of keeping our families together,” Alonso said through a translator.