A federal judge in Texas recently struck down a program keeping approximately 800,000 undocumented children and young adults in the country. This leaves thousands of Santa Clara County residents without federal protection from deportation.
For the more than 8,780 San Jose residents benefitting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the July 16 decision offers no resolution. The court ruled DACA illegal but did not provide a remedy for those already in the program.
County policy does not honor civil detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold inmates on their behalf longer than they would otherwise be held under county custody.
Prospective DACA recipients face the largest setback because the program can no longer accept new applicants. Regardless of status in the process, the 14,000 Santa Clara County residents eligible for the program are now shut out.
“It’s sad, because to attend university and have jobs a bit less strenuous than the jobs (our) parents had to work, they had those possibilities with DACA. Now the road is going to be much harder,” said Yasmeen Guerrero in Spanish. She’s a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. in 2011.
Guerrero and other Dreamers stood tall with approximately 40 allies who rallied at City Hall on Sunday. They called for a permanent solution on immigration status for not only the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, but for the other 10 million undocumented residents in the country as well.
Brenda Zendejas, a frequent community organizer in Alum Rock, co-hosted the rally with nonprofit leaders from immigrant rights groups such as SIREN, Yo Soy Tu Voz and the Human Agenda. She held a sign reading, “Biden now what?”
SIREN Executive Director Maricela Gutiérrez said one of the reasons Democrats currently occupy the White House is because young people with undocumented friends and family turned out for President Joe Biden’s immigration reform promises.
According to Biden’s immigration plan released Dec. 11, 2019, he vowed to protect Dreamers and said they deserved a roadmap to citizenship through legislative reform.
“We can’t let Congress and the Biden administration forget about that,” Gutiérrez told San José Spotlight. “The ball’s in their court. We need them to do the right thing and show up for immigrants, the way that the children of immigrants and the people in the Latino community did when they voted for him.”
Luz Ramirez, 33, has lived in the U.S. for the last 14 years. Like Guerrero, Ramirez joined the protest on Sunday calling for legislative action on DACA.
“I came here for my daughter,” Ramirez said in Spanish. “She was the one who needed DACA.”
Her daughter started the DACA application process and began organizing the paperwork when Andrew Hanan, a federal judge for the Southern District of Texas, dropped his July 16 decision on the Dreamers.
Texas led a nine-state coalition on Dec. 22, urging Hanan to rule against the program created by former President Barack Obama in 2012. The coalition’s request followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that blocked former President Donald Trump’s attempt to end the program in 2017, but the court did not rule on the legality of DACA itself.
Erika Rivera, program manager for the Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations, described the recent freeze on DACA applications as “scary” and said it might encourage other states to pull back protections of undocumented people.
“It’s scary because this puts (DACA) right back on the litigation track where it’s probably going to have to make its way up to the Supreme Court again if no permanent solution is found,” Rivera said.
Speakers at Sunday’s rally emphasized the need for federal lawmakers to come together and create legislation to solidify DACA as the law of the land—calling on the Biden administration to follow through on promises that immigrant rights activists said were made to the undocumented community.
Taking away the opportunity for future children and young adults to apply for DACA status will increase the difficulty of attending a university or maintaining stable employment, Guerrero said.
“Taking away this opportunity, there’s no chance for them to be well and study comfortably without worrying that one day (ICE) is going to snatch them up and deport them,” she said. “DACA is important because it protects people from that.”
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.