When Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, President Trump promised Dreamers they’d have “nothing to worry about” for six months. It was reported that he had “delayed the pain” to be felt by Dreamers until March 2018, to give Congress time to resolve the situation. Contrary to Trump’s pledge, the pain is already being felt by Dreamers today.
In ending DACA, Sessions and Trump abruptly changed the renewal deadline for many to October 2017, and they did not take the minimum step of sending letters to those affected about the sudden change. Around 22,000 DACA recipients missed this accelerated renewal deadline and are losing protections at a rate of 122 per day.
The Republican-engineered demise of DACA means that immigrant youth are once again living in limbo — at risk of deportation for simply driving a car, boarding a bus or walking down the street.
The risk exists for DACA beneficiaries whose cards are expiring, as well as people with current DACA status like Felipe Abonza-Lopez, a 20-year-old from Texas. HuffPost reports that Felipe is being detained by ICE despite having valid DACA status and no criminal record. Advocates are working hard to get Felipe home, but today he remains in immigration jail.
Or recall the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez. At 10 years old, Rosa Maria is a “little Dreamer,” not yet old enough for DACA but still eligible for protection under the Dream Act. The child, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was arrested by Trump’s deportation force following gallbladder surgery at a Texas hospital, and detained for over a week. She was finally released to her parents after international outcry and intervention by the ACLU, but she never should have gotten to that point. How cruel.
Republicans in Congress are complicit in this. In a recent White House meeting, Senate Republicans conspired with the president to agree that a deal for Dreamers would not be included in the 2018 government spending bill. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE concurred. But if Dreamer legislation is not passed before the government is funded for next year, Americans will be paying for the deportation of more young people like Felipe and Rosa Maria.
Let me break this down. The 2018 spending package will fund the enforcement and removal operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol, which have been implementing Trump’s mass deportation plan since he took the oath of office.
The people targeted are not the “bad hombres” Trump promised to deport during his campaign. They’re people like Jesus Lara Lopez of Willard, Ohio, who’d lived in the U.S. for decades, had a legal work permit, and was paying taxes and raising a family. Jesus was deported after he voluntarily showed up at ICE offices for a routine check-in this year.
Trump’s deportation force is also targeting people like Daniel Ramirez of Washington and Riccy Enriquez Perdomo, a Kentucky mom who went to ICE to pay a bond for another immigrant and found herself arrested instead. Ramirez and Enriquez had valid DACA status at the time they were arrested, and had done nothing to justify arrest and detention.
Imagine how these examples would multiply if the Trump administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill receive the billions of dollars they are demanding for more deportations.
Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, testified at her Senate confirmation hearing that undocumented youth will not be a priority for deportation after March 5. But that’s difficult to believe in light of Trump’s deportation priorities, which clearly instruct ICE to target every undocumented immigrant for removal, including former DACA recipients — as well as the mounting number of cases that prove her wrong.
The deadline for action on Dreamer legislation is not March of 2018, it’s already passed. Unless Congress acts on Dreamer legislation ASAP, Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE will transform the year-end spending bill into an edict to deport Dreamers. Just ask Felipe Abonza-Lopez, Rosa Maria Hernandez, Daniel Ramirez, Riccy Enriquez Perdomo, and all the other Dreamers with firsthand experience.
David Leopold is an immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.