Akron Immigration Attorney Says There's Much Fear, Concern Over DACA

A demonstration in support of immigrants and refugees held in Cleveland in May 2017. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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President Donald Trump's order to end the DACA program offering reprieve for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, has sent ripples through politics and communities. The order would end DACA in six months, unless Congress moves to save it.

Ohio GOP U.S. Senator Rob Portman today said in a statement those in the DACA program are here through no fault of their own, and he agrees Congress should act.  Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson issued a statement urging people to become familiar with their rights in case of an immigration raid.

For more reaction, I spoke earlier with Akron immigration attorney Alvaro DeCola:

DeCola: “My first reaction it’s mainly that of disappointment, because they’re going after individuals that really are here because they were brought over by their parents, the majority of them. These individuals grew up here, the majority of them only speak English; they are American in every other way. So by going and taking away their ability to have a work permit so they cannot work legally, they cannot go to school legally—it’s more of a moral issue, if you will.  We are putting legal liability on individuals that were children at the time when they committed the alleged violation.”

GANZER:Attorney General Jeff Sessions said President Obama at the time allowed an ‘open-ended circumvention’ of immigration laws. What do you say to that?”

DeCola: “No, it wasn’t an open-ended circumvention. There were very specific guidelines to it, and when you look at the requirements for DACA these individuals couldn’t have a criminal records, they had to have attended school in the U.S., they had to have certain continuous presence in the country, so they were vetted every single case.  I had many, many clients come into my office to see if they could actually apply for DACA and I had to tell them, ‘no, you don’t qualify because you don’t meet all the requirements.’  So the requirements were pretty strict, and specific.”

GANZER: “About your clients, there has been the rumor mill churning in the last few days about what might happen to DACA. Did you get a sense of worry or fear from clients?”

DeCola: “Absolutely. You have people that were in a way coming out of the shadows because this gave them an opportunity to go to school, to go apply for a job legally, to really live a normal life, and now people are afraid.  I have been receiving a lot of phone calls throughout the weekend, from people who are beneficiaries of the program, and family members, and so on, and all immigrant communities are very concerned with this.”

GANZER:You have an interesting perspective: you went down and offered free legal services in Artesia, N.M. for asylum seekers, mothers and minors coming up from Central America; so you were kind of on the border, you got that perspective, you have clients now who are trying to navigate DACA and other immigration concerns.  I mean you’ve kind of seen all of the aspects of the immigration debate up close. Do you think there’s something that is missing from the conversation right now, or you’re not hearing enough of, with your experience?”

DeCola: “I think what’s missing from the conversation is what has been missing for many, many, many years. Definitely our immigration system is broken, and Congress has not taken this issue and done what they should have done a long time ago, way before Trump, way before Obama. The DACA program was just a band aid to a larger issue, and now it’s back to Congress.”

GANZER: “And do you think that’s going to happen, that Congress is going to do something? Are you optimistic?”

DeCola: “I don’t know at this point.  I don’t play politics. I seriously feel immigration shouldn’t be a political issue, however they’ve made a political issue out of it.  It’s more of a humanitarian issue, and if you will an economic issue.”

 

See also: Unsettled: A 'Dreamer's' View Of Painesville Since President Trump Took Office

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