HIAS PA Issues Digest #7: DACA Under Threat and more

HIAS Pennsylvania Immigration Issues Digest 

DACA Under Threat

The Trump Administration is set to make a decision about ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by September 5. His hand was forced after 10 state attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said they would sue the government unless the program is ended. The Trump administration has indicated that it agrees with the suit that the administration doesn’t have the legal authority to maintain the program, but nothing has been decided yet. 1,850 government leaders (including governors, mayors, and judges) have pleaded for the administration to keep the program.

What does this mean?

DACA currently protects nearly 800,000 individuals who arrived before the age of 16 and fulfills a variety of other requirements having never committed a crime from being deported, and allows them to apply for employment authorization. There are a variety of ways that administration could end the program, either phasing out the program by ending new applications, or terminating the program completely and revoking work permits. If DACA recipients were kicked out of the workforce, it would incur turnover costs of $3.4 billion, and reduce $24.6 billion in tax contributions over the next decade.

What can you do?

Today is Interfaith Day of Action to #DefendDACA. Call your congressperson or senator and tell them to protect DACA recipients and pass the bipartisan Dream Act 2017 to make DACA into law. Here’s a sample script:

“Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m calling from [CITY, STATE] to express support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. I urge the [REPRESENTATIVE/SENATOR/PRESIDENT] to do everything in [HIS/HER] power to protect the estimated 800,000 DACA-recipients from deportation and support their right to work and study in this country. I support the DREAM Act of 2017 (H.R. 3440 and S. 1615) and hope it will be passed quickly so that these young people can pursue their dreams in this country which they call home.”

You can also join us and Juntos September 5 at 10am to rally at the Department of Justice.
 

USCIS is making it harder to enter the country legally 

Since January, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the length of 15 immigration applications. This has led to doubling (and sometimes tripling) the load of paperwork immigrants have to do in order become green card holders, or to bring over spouses or other relatives. Meanwhile, the agency says that the forms will not take a minute longer to complete.

USCIS is also requiring more green card applicants to go through an in-person interview, which will slowdown the process.

What does this mean for immigrants? 

These policies effectively limit legal immigration by slowing down an agency which already has waiting times in terms of months or years. Even more worrisome, though, is how confusing and complex the new questions are. Many immigrants who would not have needed a lawyer will have to hire one. If they do not hire a lawyer, they run the risk of “misrepresenting” themselves, which can result in denial or deportation after gaining an immigration status, or the inability to become a citizen. In effect, vague questions give the government to power to kick out an immigrant if they fall out of favor later.

What can you do?

Donate to HIAS Pennsylvania—we provide legal immigration assistance at no or little cost so that an immigrant does not find themselves losing their status because they misunderstood whether being “arrested, cited, charged or detained for any reason by any law enforcement official” included a parking ticket.

Philadelphia School District Keeps Immigrant Students Safe 

The Philadelphia School District is implementing mandatory training for every school-based employee—from principal to teacher to janitor--to learn how to keep immigrant children safe and supported in the current political climate. This program, which seems to be one of a kind, ensures that employees know that students are entitled an education regardless of immigration status, and that federal law prohibits school staff from disclosing student information—even to ICE officials.

What does this mean? 

The Philadelphia School District is home to 14,000 English-language learners. For those who are undocumented or whose parents are undocumented, the last year has been one of crisis. By ensuring school employees are trained, students know that school is a place of safety where they can feel safe to learn. HIAS Pennsylvania staff works with the Philadelphia School System, both to provide trainings on immigration to teachers, and to provide extra support to their refugee and immigrant students. 

Texas Judge Blocks Anti-Sanctuary City Law in the Midst of Hurricane Harvey Chaos 

A federal judge in San Antonio has blocked S.B. 4 questioning its constitutionality. S.B. 4 would prohibit Texas cities and counties from adopting policies limiting immigration enforcement, allows police officers to question the immigration status of anyone they detain, and threatens public officials who violate the S.B. 4 with removal, jail time, or fines.

The law was set to go into enforcement on Friday, in the midst of the chaos of Hurricane Harvey. While the city promised that it will not question the immigration status of anyone at shelters and food banks, many are still fearful, especially since Border Patrol continued border checks in the midst of the hurricane. 
 

HIAS Pennsylvania News 

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A big welcome to our new Community Engagement Specialist: Kerry Coughlin. Kerry will be joining us after completing her MSW at the University of Pennsylvania. She has interned with HIAS PA's Citizenship team, and spent two years in the Peace Corps. We are excited to welcome her to the HIAS PA family.
Read in the  Philadelphia Inquirer  about how two Philadelphians are trying to connect donors to needs through their new startup,  Needslist . 

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