Know your rights: Keeping the dream alive

The Student Government Association (SGA) at Richland hosted the informative town hall meeting, “Know Your Rights,” dealing with immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), on Sept. 12. Panelists included state Rep. Roberto Alonso, Senior Attorney Tracy Smith and Gil Zafra, marketing and community outreach manager, with Brewer & Lormand Attorneys at Law and Assistant Mexican Consul Edurne Nerea Pineda Ayerbe.

The focus of the discussion centered on President Donald Trump’s challenge to Congress to pass legal protection for current DACA recipients. Alonso said, “We need 217 congressmen in the House and approximately 60 senators to make it happen.”

There are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Currently there are 194 Democratic House members. They would need 24 Republican votes in the House, and three in the Senate to pass the Dream Act. They would also need the president to sign it.

A Dream Act would confer immigrant status to conditional, then permanent individual status after meeting a series ofqualifications, not just a deferral of deportation, as is the case with DACA.

Not only is there the question of if it can happen, but if it can happen before March 15, the current six-month deadline for the expiration of DACA. Alonso believes it can and cites the speed with which legislation authorizing $15 billion in aid for Hurricane Harvey victims was authorized.

As to whether Trump would sign a Dream Act, Smith said, “With the amount of pressure he [Trump] is facing I don’t think it’s unlikely he would sign it.”

Meetings between Trump and leading Democrats point to the possibility that a deal could be reached. The question of whether border security would be included in Dream Act legislation is another possible stumbling block.

One panelist asked SGA President Zahara Wadud how she planned to support DACA recipients. She said she plans on contacting the Latino Club about raising issue awareness. She is also contacting nonprofits to get donations to cover the $495 fee charged to DACA renewal applicants.

With respect to the immediate need to pressure Congress, Wadud plans to hold a workshop “where people can come and learn about how to contact their representatives and how it’s not as hard as it seems.”

Assistant Consul Pineda told the audience that the consulate has a “protection” department that offers information about immigration and other legal subjects of interest to Mexican citizens residing in the United States. In certain cases, economic assistance for the renewal of DACA may be available. As a reminder, the deadline for renewal of DACA applications is Oct. 5.

The question of Trump’s recent pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona was addressed. He was convicted of criminal contempt of court after he disobeyed a 2011 order that prohibited him from targeting and jailing those deemed undocumented. The Arpaio pardon is viewed by some as a one of several signs of Trump’s disparagement of Mexicans.

Trump’s animus is cited as one of the grounds (illegal discrimination) in the lawsuit recently filed by the state of New York to overturn his order to phase out DACA.  Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, has filed a similar lawsuit joined by Maryland, Minnesota and Maine. California is home to roughly 25 percent of Dreamers.  In all, there are now 20 states suing the Trump administration over DACA.