Figuring out a path forward for the 800,000 students who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was the subject of a recent conference at Barry University.
“These people are terrified about not knowing how to plan for the future. You have a pretty significant population who was given a relief [with DACA] and started planning ahead,” said Miami immigration attorney Michelle Ortiz. “So when all of a sudden, because there has been no legislative fix, a president changes his mind about what should happen to these people, anxiety and fear ensues.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in early September that the Trump Administration was ending DACA, an Obama-era program that protected hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to this country illegally as young children and have known no other country than the United States. Sessions said in September there will be six-month delay in terminating the program to allow Congress time to act.
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For those who are current DACA recipients, permits will begin expiring March 5, 2018, the end of the six-month window. President Donald Trump has said if lawmakers can’t arrive at a solution, then he will “revisit” the issue.
“I don’t understand why we would send those people back. They came here. They made something of themselves, and now they work here. How can you disapprove of that?” said Presler Maxius, a Barry University student who legally emigrated from Haiti.
President Obama created DACA in 2012 by executive order. Critics have said the program needs to be addressed legislatively, but Congress has routinely failed to to pass a law that would address the issues.
Sean Foreman, a professor of political science at Barry and one of the conference participants, said many Trump supporters support his decision to cancel the program.
“We just don’t know what will happen with DACA,’’ he said. “This is why we need Congress to act and make regular order of these immigration laws that are being flipped back and forth by the will of presidents,” said Foreman.
North Miami Mayor Dr. Smith Joseph, also on the panel, argued that people will continue to come to the United States seeking a better future, and the lack of a timely response from the government will create disorder.
“If you don’t have a responsible government, you will create chaos,” he said. “They know they need to do the right thing, but how long they take to do the right thing … I don’t know.”