On June 18, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of maintaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). People who have DACA status, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers,” are allowed to remain in the United States under this ruling.
However, it was concluded that while the way in which the Trump Administration went about ending DACA was unlawful, the decision to end the program does reside in the president’s power. The court’s decision provided a “roadmap” for how Trump could go about ending the program in a legal way.
The Grand Rapids Community College Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion held a virtual town hall for students and faculty Monday evening. A number of professionals within the immigration field were invited to discuss the implications of this ruling and offer guidance.
Grand Rapids immigration attorney, Meghan Moore, Avanti Law Group, said the 5-4 decision from the conservative majority bench was “very surprising.”
Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez, immigration attorney at Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), said that this is a victory and “buys time.” Though she emphasized that the door has been “left open” to absolve the program at a later date and additional litigation will likely follow.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are over 1 million people eligible for DACA across the country, with 13,000 people who are immediately eligible in Michigan. There are nearly 700,000 active recipients.
“We still need to continue to advocate for protection for DACA recipients and the undocumented community as a whole,” Ontiveros-Chavez said. “(Something) that is permanent and provides a pathway to protections as a resident or a United States citizen because DACA is not a status that leads to permanent residency or citizenship.”
The DACA application process, which has a $495 filing fee, is quite involved and has strict requirements for acceptance. People are not required to obtain legal assistance, though it can be very helpful. Moore said that there are often differing levels of attorney involvement, and sometimes none at all, and even a short conversation for legal advice can be helpful.
“I think that there are probably plenty of people who are perfectly capable of doing an application… “ Moore said. “Some people may benefit from just speaking to an attorney for 20 or 30 minutes about kind of feeling out the risks in their own cases and once they have some of that information they can feel armed to go forward.”
A counselor at GRCC, Stacey Heisler, said that the Counseling and Career Development Office offers personal counseling, one-on-one services, and career counseling. Considering that the immigration process is stressful enough, not to mention the added tension from the coronavirus pandemic, Heisler recommends seeking the free, confidential services that GRCC offers.
“I’ve worked with a number of students who have had to completely shift their direction because of the previous rulings or just the sense of, ‘How could I complete this if I get deported?’ etc. so it’s a tremendous amount of stress,” Heisler said.
Samantha Magdelano, the director of One Michigan, an undocumented immigrations rights organization based in Detroit, said there is a need for financial donations to assist people through the application process. The orgination has created an Undocumented Student Guide to College that offers resources for those pursuing higher education.
Continuing the conversation and asking undocumented immigrants what their specific needs are is very important, Magdelano said.
Ontiveros-Chavez echoed that sentiment: “This is temporary and we need to continue to fight for a solution that provides permanent protection to DACA recipients and the community as a whole… We will continue to fight for a just, inclusive, and humane immigration system.”