At DACA event in Edwards, confusion, anxiety and fear among those caught in immigration crossfire

Bratzo Horruitiner, left, and Edelina Burciaga conducuted a session about immigrant rights and last week's DACA order. Horruitiner is with YouthPower365, and Burciaga is a professor with the University of Colorado-Denver.
Randy Wyrick| |

What this means

• If your Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) docmentation expires on or before March 5, 2018, you can get another two years, but only if you apply by Oct. 5, 2017.

• New first-time applications will no longer be permitted.

• First-time applications submitted prior to Sept. 5 will be processed.

• Any pending renewal applications will be processed.

• For the next 30 days (until Oct. 5), you can continue to submit DACA renewals — only for those people whose DACA expires prior to March 5, 2018. If your DACA expires after that, you cannot renew.

• Individual DACAs will remain valid until expiration. No renewals will be allowed. When your DACA expires, it’s done.

• Any requests for Advance Parole will not be granted. No pending requests for travel documents will be processed, as of Sept. 5. Approved travel documents will remain in effect; however, consult an immigration attorney prior to travel.

• Individuals in removal proceedings prior to DACA may receive a Notice to Appear, resuming the court case.

Source: Amy Novak, Eagle County immigration attorney

EDWARDS — Young people caught in the crossfire of the latest political immigration fight need compassion and help — especially help.

Edelina Burciaga, Ph.D., a sociology professor with the University of Colorado, Denver, spent Monday evening in Edwards, answering questions in the Battle Mountain High School auditorium at a Q-and-A session sponsored by the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 and Eagle County Schools.

Many of those in attendance were confused, anxious and scared. Their questions started slowly, but came more rapidly as they grew more comfortable.

Burciaga told them to relax if they could, and keep going about their lives, but to act quickly. They have a few scant weeks to renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals documentation and buy two more legal years in the United States.

“I have seen undocumented youth fight for DACA. That was a struggle. They’re highly motivated by their parents, who brought them here for a better life,” Burciaga said.

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{Colorado announces plans to join multi-state lawsuit challenging Trump’s DACA decision}

Do something

While Americans wait for congress to do something — anything — at the federal level, there are ways to help in your community, Burciaga said, no matter what community that is.

Burciaga lives in Denver. She was in Edwards on Monday, Grand Junction this past week and will be in Alamosa over the weekend.

“We need to create a healing circle, community spaces where these people can feel comfortable and supported,” Burciaga said. “It’s taking a mental and emotional toll on young people and their families.”

Along with compassion, cash is helpful, she said.

Many of those scrambling to meet the Oct. 5 DACA deadline will have a tough time raising the $600 before their window of opportunity slams shut.

The website GoFundMe has all kinds of funds popping up, and other organizations are raising money to help people pay for their DACA renewals, Burciaga said.

Local college students under DACA’s protection are not criminals because of any action they have taken, said Carrie Besnette Hauser, Ph.D., president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College.

“Children do not have the physical, intellectual, financial or legal means to make decisions on where they live,” Besnette said.

She said possibly “hundreds” of CMC’s 20,000 students are DACA beneficiaries.

“All of these students live in our communities and graduated from our high schools. They did exactly as they were told: performed well in high school, enrolled in college, observed all laws and registered with DACA in order to participate fully in our society. They took these steps to keep their legal standing and not hide in the shadows,” Besnette said.

Hopes and DREAMers

Right now, hope appears to rest on two proposals rattling around congress:

• The Dream Act

• The Bridge Act

Burciaga said there are two significant differences:

The Dream Act provides a pathway to citizenship.

The Bridge Act protects people from deportation and provides a work permit, but no path to citizenship.

Dream, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, was first introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2001. In those 16 years, lawmakers have repeatedly failed to make it law. This legislation would create a process by which undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and meet certain other criteria could become conditional residents and, eventually, permanent residents.

The most recent version of the bill, filed this past July, has nine co-sponsors.

A little about DACA

In June 2012, former President Barack Obama created the DACA program through executive order. Whether or not it comprised law making by the executive branch, and would therefore be illegal, was central to President Donald Trump’s order last week.

On Sept. 5, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began phasing out the program, which gives a two-year deportation reprieve to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The federal government immediately stopped accepting new requests for DACA. At the same time, Trump challenged Congress to make immigration reforms in the next six months, before work permits begin to expire for those who were granted DACA.

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced his plans for the state to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging Trump’s decision.

Between 2012 and early 2017, the federal government approved nearly 800,000 DACA requests, as well as hundreds of thousands of requests to renew a DACA upon its expiration.

“President Trump’s move could force congress to pass some sort of legislation,” Burciaga said.

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