The Immigration Law Association (ILA) at the University of Florida College Levin of Law hosted a panel on Tuesday to discuss the recent rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The panelists were Jasmine Brito, 3L; Melisa Muriel, 3L; Mariana Castro, UF neurobiology senior and DACA recipient; and JoAnna Dogo, recent UF Law grad and current law clerk at Torres Law Firm.
DACA was established during the Obama administration, protecting about 800,000 people from deportation and granting them employment authorization. Among the many qualifications, Brito mentioned having arrived to the United States before turning 16, continuously residing in the United States for a specific period of time, being enrolled in school, and not having committed a felony.
“This gives children who were brought here without a choice of their own a chance to be part of the economy,” said Muriel, a certified legal intern at the UF Law Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic.
Castro, who was born in Peru and brought to the U.S. at 10, explained that the application process is very tedious and expensive, as is the renewal.
“I was asked for any certificate, award or report card that I received in elementary and middle school,” Castro said. “They really get to know who we are and determine that we are not a threat to the nation.”
On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump announced the revocation of this program.
“We got a lot of calls on that day of people who had a DACA status and were worried about what would happen to it,” Dogo said.
Those whose DACA status is set to expire before March 5 had until Oct. 5 to apply for one last renewal.
“It all happened so quickly. They only [gave them] a month to do this,” Muriel said. “Some people panicked, others didn’t know and lost the opportunity.”
The government did not give DACA recipients any notice, according to Castro. Recipients, family members and lawyers have to rely on the news in order to keep up with the immigration reform.
“Many [DACA recipients] are thinking about dropping out because they cannot afford the rest of their education,” said Castro, president of CHISPAS, an organization that funds a scholarship for undocumented students.
Trump just released his demands for an immigration reform this past weekend, according to Brito, who has had several experiences with immigration law and migrant workers.
“It’s hard to see the president play with young people’s lives to pass his agenda,” she said.
Bernice Dewlow, ILA president and moderator for this event, emphasized DACA recipients as people.
“They’re not a bargaining token,” Dewlow said.
A member of the audience asked Castro if she would be willing to give the president his demand for a wall to border the U.S. and Mexico in order for her to be able to keep her DACA status.
“When I think of immigration, I don’t just think about myself,” Castro said. “I am willing to wait for a clean DREAM Act. I know Congress can do better, and they will. It’s their job.”
The panelists encouraged students to volunteer at detention centers, write and call to Congress and raise scholarship funds that aid undocumented students.
“Be ready. Be an advocate. Be a friend for those who need it,” Castro said.