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Undocumented US 'Dreamers' Still in Limbo

  • Aline Barros

Volunteer immigration attorneys organize to help as people gather to protest against President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport, Jan. 31, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued three executive orders that pertain to immigration in the past week. While that seems like it should be definitive, one important group of undocumented immigrants is still in limbo.

At least 750,000 undocumented immigrants are still protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, signed by the previous administration. They are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — commonly known as “dreamers,” referring to the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM ) Act, which is stalemated in Congress.

But DACA expires in two years and after tumultuous days during which hundreds of visa holders have been denied entrance to the U.S., immigration proponents worry that the program is still on the table.

“At this point, I think we have to assume that everything that Trump said during his campaign, he's going to try to fulfill because so far that's what he has done ... We have to be prepared,” Alma Couvorthie, senior director of community organizing at CASA de Maryland.

Although Trump's day one promise was to end DACA, he told Time magazine in December that on this issue, at least, he is willing to “work something out.”

But a provision in one of his immigration executive orders may say otherwise.

President Donald Trump sits at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

President Donald Trump sits at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Prepare for the worst

Trump's executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, says the government cannot “faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

Which brings Couvorthie to urge lawyers, immigration advocates, and undocumented immigrants to “be ready, get prepared, know your rights, and get organized in local communities.” Couvorthie said the whole pro-immigration movement will “exhaust any avenue” to get relief either through the courts or Congress.

“We should not, for any minute, think that he's going to care for our kids and the families who have benefited from this program and who are actually contributing greatly to this nation,” Couvorthie said.

Bargaining chip?

Proponents of tougher immigration laws and anti-immigration groups believe Trump should follow through with his promises to end deferred action.

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, advocates for more restrictive immigration policies, has told VOA he expects some leeway when it comes to the dreamers.

“There's no fundamental reason why one group of people should be allowed to break the law or others, but in the course of any kind of meaningful reform there's going to be some kind of give and take,” Stein said, adding that DACA might be a place for some give.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich introduces Donald Trump during a campaign rally, Sept. 19, 2016, in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich introduces Donald Trump during a campaign rally, Sept. 19, 2016, in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Gingrich backs DACA

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, an informal adviser to Trump, told the Washington Post he is advising President Trump to keep DACA in place and “avoid a politically treacherous confrontation.”

“Why pick a fight over this group of people who have a lot of emotional stories to tell? It's not realistic. It's not practical,” Gingrich told the newspaper.

'One of the lucky ones’

Thirty-year-old Maria Reyes, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico brought to the U.S. at 13, refuses to be scared.

“I’m one of the lucky ones because I am here. … These orders are actually bringing the community together. I'm confident this [DACA] is not going to change. Sometimes I worry, but I know I'm not alone," Reyes told VOA.

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