A political strategist from the American Civil Liberties Union, Astrid Dominguez, discussed challenges facing undocumented immigrants at a lunchtime talk on Oct. 13.
Legislators opposed to immigration reform bills worry that they come at the cost of securing the border, but Dominguez said that should not be an issue.
“Dreamers are not bargaining chips,” she said during her talk.“They are productive members of our society who’ve earned citizenship. Border security needs to be addressed separately, as does a path to citizenship for other immigrants.”
Marcia Walker-McWilliams, the associate director of programs for the Center for Civil Leadership, said the CCL hosted Dominguez’s talk, titled “Protecting Dreams: Advocacy and Future of DACA,” to continue discussions about DACA on campus.
“Astrid has years of experience working on immigration policy at the state and federal level,” Walker-McWilliams said. “We asked her to share some of that expertise, in particular how we’ve arrived at [this] current moment.”
Texas was one of the first states to introduce and pass a bill benefitting dreamers with the Texas Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act in 2001, which was championed and signed into law by then-Governor Rick Perry, Dominguez said. Under it, undocumented students were given the opportunity to receive in-state tuition. However, in every Texas Legislature session since 2007, the legislature has attempted to remove the act.
Dominguez said another way Texas is fighting undocumented immigration is through Senate Bill 4, commonly known as SB4. Under SB4, local enforcement and government can do the work of federal immigration officers, and police officers can ask anyone for his or her immigration status on the grounds of suspicion.
This bill is dangerous because it can lead to racial profiling, Dominguez said, as people of color are more likely to be stopped and asked for their immigration status than white people are.
According to Dominguez, many people are still misinformed about what DACA is, because it is not an executive order or a law, and does not grant immigration status or amnesty. Instead, it is a program based on deferred action.
This September, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, meaning no new applicants could be accepted. October 2017 was the last month to renew it and March 2018 is when the first wave of permits begin to expire. Permits renewed just this year will expire in March 2020. Once permits expire, Dominguez said Dreamers will be at a higher risk for deportation.
“Homeland Security said to prepare all their traveling and working permits now,” Dominguez said. “The administration is basically telling [these people] to get ready for self-deportation.”
Congress only has until March 2018, when the first permits expire, to decide whether to pass the bills recently introduced this past July regarding immigration reform, according to Dominguez.
“Dreamers are important to our nation because they are integral parts of it. They are our friends, neighbors, colleagues, teachers, business people,” Dominguez said. “They are also serving our country in the military. Dreamers have established their lives in our country, which is their country too. They contribute and make our society better every day by giving the best of themselves.”
Former President Barack Obama tried to expand DACA with DACA II and implement Deferred Action for Parental Accountability in 2014. However, a Texas-led lawsuit against the administration over the constitutionality of the programs halted the expansion, according to Dominguez. DACA II would have expanded eligibility to people who lived in America since January 1, 2010 regardless of age. DAPA would have granted deferred action status to parents of American citizens or lawful permanent residents.
With the Supreme Court’s deadlocked decision, Dominguez said DACA II and DAPA were never enacted, but DACA I was still in place.
Ariana Engles, chair of the Student Association’s Undocumented Student Support Service Working Group, said the discussion was informative.
“I found that the depth into the history of DACA, the DREAM Act and Dreamers was very helpful, especially for laymen in the audience,” Engles, a Lovett College sophomore, said. “Ms. Dominguez also did a good job in emphasizing that DACA is merely a work permit program, not a path to citizenship.”
However, Engles said she found flaws within the discussion.
“Ms. Dominguez was not as familiar with current figures, it seems, and presented the history of DACA II and DAPA in a slightly confusing manner,” she said. “However, one cannot be perfect, and she remained poised throughout the presentation.”
Jones College freshman Kyla Barnwell said she knew only the general aspects of DACA before Dominguez’s talk.
“I thought the event was effectively informative and provided a thorough overview of how varying immigration legislature evolved [and] I believe Ms. Dominguez conveyed the serious effects that rescinding DACA could have in a powerful and very passionate way,” Barnwell said. “Overall, I thought her message and advocacy was clear and direct. We all have the power to meet with local representatives to stand up and fight with the ACLU and defend DACA.”