Federal Judge Stands Up for Dreamers
Cristina Jimenez speaks to demonstrators, urging the Democrats to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, during a rally outside the office of California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A federal judge issued a temporary block on the Trump administration’s order to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Tuesday, ordering the administration to resume accepting DACA renewal applications from anyone previously protected under the program.
The ruling emerged from an ongoing court case on behalf of DACA recipients between the University of California and the Department of Homeland Security. While federal judge William Alsup did call for the administration to continue to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis for the duration of the legal battle, the decision provided no framework for resuming DACA coverage.
“Unfortunately, even with this decision, fear and uncertainty persist for DACA recipients across California and the nation who want to continue to live, work, learn and contribute to the country they know as home. It does not negate, nor lessen, the urgent need for permanent protection through a legislative solution,” the University of California said in a statement.
Alsup’s decision brought harsh criticism from the White House, with President Donald Trump tweeting that it reflected the how the “broken and unfair” court system operated and with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calling the decision outrageous.
“President Trump is committed to the rule of law, and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration,” Sanders said in a statement.
The DACA program was created in 2012 by the Obama administration as a means to protect the more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, otherwise known as Dreamers.
The program provided applicants with a renewable two year period of deferred action from deportation and made them eligible for a work permit. Applicants were required to meet a series of eligibility requirements that included the stipulations that they had been brought to the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday and possessed no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions.
The Trump administration ended the program in September, permitting DACA applicants to renew their applications by Oct. 5 before completely phasing the program out in March 2018. The decision sparked several legal battles across the nation over the program’s end, including the California lawsuit that initiated the hold.
Since the announcement to phase out the program in September, the University of Central Oklahoma has joined the outcry against the decision, with UCO President Don Betz, Student Association President Stockton Duvall and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion all releasing statements supporting those affected by the decision.
The most vocal response on campus came from the Hispanic American Student Association alongside the Latino Faculty and Staff Association, who sponsored numerous rallies and events in support of DACA and UCO’s DACA students.
“From the announcement of the executive decision to rescind DACA, Dreamers throughout our nation lived in an uncertainty for their futures that many of us will never understand,” said HASA Preisdent Thalia Rodriguez. “Thankfully, when Alsup blocked that decision, it provided some sort of relief for the Dreamers knowing that they could reapply for DACA status.”
The campus organizations also hosted events that provided students the opportunity to contact state legislators to express concerns as well as forums on immigration policy and reform with Dream Act Oklahoma, a local non-profit focused on supporting Dreamers.
“For this semester, HASA will be keeping up with any updates on DACA and the current immigration issues,” Rodriguez said. “We will make it a point to discuss these issues in our general body meetings, as well as continue having events to contact our legislators to express our concerns.”
The court decision also came at a time during which Trump and congressional leaders had been discussing possible legislative alternatives to the DACA program. Trump had given Congress until March to create a bipartisan immigration plan that would replace DACA.
Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford has been closely involved with the discussions to create the new legislation, calling for a solution that considers both Dreamers and U.S. immigration standards.
“Dealing with the DACA students that are literally caught in a place where they have no home is a compassionate thing to do, but along with our compassion, we also uphold the law,” Lankford said last week on the Senate floor.
The talks on a legislative alternative hit a roadblock Thursday, when reports surfaced that Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as “—-hole countries” as he criticized lawmakers’ proposals for the immigration deal.
While the White House released a statement that Trump continues to fight for a stronger, merit-based immigration system, it did not deny his comment.