PCC Holds DACA Panel, Commits to Sanctuary Status
PCC Holds DACA Panel, Commits to Sanctuary Status
A Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) panel discussion in room 122 of Terrell Hall on Cascade campus offered resource information for DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants, including information on free upcoming DACA renewal clinics. The information session was followed by a Q&A discussion with the panelists.
The discussion panelists at the January 31 event included: Legislative Director of the Oregon Student Association, Ricardo Lujan Valerio; Director of Legislative Affairs at Rock Creek, Christian Calzada; PCC paralegal instructor and immigration attorney Leni Tupper; immigration attorney, member of the Oregon District Court and the 5th and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Rachael Game; and immigration attorney Mark Bowers representing the Oregon Law Center.
DACA was an executive order implemented by former-President Barack Obama. It provided amnesty for children brought to the United States illegally by allowing them to work, live, and travel in the US without fear of deportation. It is not, as critics contend, a pathway towards citizenship or permanent residency in the US. All DACA recipients must still go through the long process of acquiring residency and citizenship that any legal arrivals must endure. Moreover, on September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescission the DACA program, meaning that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would no longer accept new DACA applications. Renewal applications were still accepted until October 5, 2017, however those whose permit expires on or after March 6, 2018 and who did not meet the renewal deadline will no longer be able to renew.
The harsh realities faced by DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants, people who have committed no crime, were voiced by Calzada and Lujan-Valerio who relayed stories of their struggles within this bureaucratic limbo. They expressed relief with the passing of DACA, which allowed them to receive identification, to work, and to travel without fear of being detained. However, DACA is merely a deferral of deportation which must be renewed every two years through an extensive background check and application process that would only provide an additional two year reprieve. Calzada called it “a bandaid to a bigger problem” that merely amounted to “a piece of [a] cake, when families have been fighting for the whole cake.” Lujan-Valerio echoed this statement:
“DACA cannot evolve into anything else, like residency or citizenship. It is not a solution… but a bandaid to a whole issue that needs surgical attention.”
Lujan-Valerio spoke candidly about memories of constantly-blaring police sirens and gunshots in his hometown in Mexico. The gang-infested region that his family ultimately fled provided few options for its residents outside of gang membership and activity. Rather than accept that fate for their children, his parents sought better opportunities in the US.
Those opportunities have not come without cost: both men expressed disdain and anguish over feeling unwelcome in the only homes they’ve ever known. The manifestation of this feeling becomes visceral upon hearing Lujan-Valerio describe how “from age 9, I remember knowing what I couldn’t say and in front of whom,” and how, regarding the arrests of undocumented immigrant protesters, “There’s a certain level of callousness [you need] to keep your composure, yet it still feels dangerous.” Calzada added that with a supportive community, even in a hostile environment, that coming out as undocumented is not only possible, but empowering, a sentiment that aroused cheers and snapping of fingers in agreement by audience members.
Rachael Game began the panel’s informational portion by sharing a short anecdote:
“AT A CONFERENCE when Obama had announced DACA, he described undocumented immigrants as being American in every way except for a piece of paper,” to which she added, “I feel the same way.”
In many ways beyond mere opinion, this statement is true. As Mark Bowers of the Oregon Law Center voiced, all persons in the US are imbued with unalienable rights, regardless of immigration status. If rights are rules that limit what the government can do to persons present in the US, then the only right that immigration status limits is the right to vote. Constitutional, workplace, housing, and discrimination protections guaranteed by law still apply to undocumented immigrants.
What this means in practice is that ICE can only enter someone’s home with their consent or with a warrant that is signed by a judge that has the name of the person in question on it. A Warrant for Arrest of an Alien issued by the US Department of Homeland Security, which is usually signed by an ICE officer, can only be used to detain a suspect in the street.
Advice offered to persons being detained on the street: ask for a warrant, ask if you’re being detained and if you’re free to go, do not flee, and if you have lawful status then you must carry proof of status. Always carry identification because, in Oregon, police can detain you until it is presented. Bear in mind that police must have probable cause of a criminal act; probable cause of illegal residency status is not a valid reason for detention. Most importantly, the right to silence must be invoked and the right to an attorney must be asserted. These two acts alone can protect someone from unduly incriminating themselves by ensuring that no damning documents are signed and no incriminating statements are made that could result in deportation. It is also important to know that an immigration attorney must be sought by the accused because the immigration court is not required to provide one.
Much of this advice falls short in circumstances where the detainee is within 100 miles of a US border because of a provision that allows Customs and Border Protection agents to stop and inspect anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal residency. In this case an expedited removal process can and often will be invoked, a process in which the accused has no right to trial and no right to an attorney.
These hostile and precarious conditions warrant a final bit of advice from Bowers: be prepared. Anyone in danger of deportation should consult with an immigration attorney, if only to know their rights. However, Bowers contends that having updated emergency numbers on your person; entrusting your information, contact numbers, and important documents with a family member or friend; creating an asset plan; determining power of attorney; and rights over children are among some important considerations to make.
PCC has taken a positive step forward on this issue by declaring itself a sanctuary campus and by unveiling the DREAM Center, a resource center that will offer outreach, education, advocacy, and community resources to the two dozen undocumented students and their families. Leni Tupper voiced that by passing a resolution to establish sanctuary status, PCC has committed to protecting sensitive information about DACA and undocumented students from warrantless ICE investigations and to taking a stand against being co-opted into enforcing immigration laws on campus.
When asked what one can do if they are not a DACA recipient or an otherwise affected person, the overwhelming sentiment voiced by the panelists was captured well by Lujan-Valerio,
“Action means more than intent.”
Tupper and Game both noted that donations to involved nonprofits help, but that cash assistance with the DACA renewal fees ($495) provide a much needed reprieve for those who are facing the looming expiration dates of their currently deferred actions.