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With DACA in limbo, local advocates urge caution on reapplication for qualified persons

Eddie Albarran, who is studying photography, took photos of a DACA rally held outside the St. Louis office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on Sept. 6, 2017. He spoke at the rally.
Provided | Eddie Albarran

A St. Louis woman from Haiti is among immigrants who are concerned about the future of family members and others without documentation, despite the recent restoration of certain protections.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it is accepting renewal applications from young people seeking protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Obama-era program protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16 and were under the age of 31 when the grant took effect in 2012. President Donald Trump sought to end DACA. A federal judge temporarily blocked that decision this month.

Not a victory

President Donald Trump said via Twitter over the weekend, "DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don't really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military."

The U.S. Justice Department plans to petition the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction this week, according to the Washington Post.

But Cassandra Brazile said the application injunction is not a victory.

“The victory will be when there is a pathway to citizenship,” she said.

Brazile said her parents brought her to the U.S. from Haiti in 1997 without documentation. Now, she is a legal permanent resident and moved to St. Louis about three years ago to study law.

Still, she said she is worried about one of her sisters, who is a college student and has lived in the country since she was 2 years old.

“She’s affected by both DACA and Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, because they just cut that program,” Brazile said.

The federal government announced the decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Haiti in November. Haitians with that designation must leave by July 2019 or face deportation.

"I want other people to try to understand why someone would bring their child from a country that is suffering and give them a better life," she said.

Brazile added later that people such as her sister and others are, "as much of an American as another individual who's in school ... Why would you want to bring [undocumented young people] to a country they don't even know?"

Counseling caution

The latest DACA development does not reassure people such as Christina Arrom, former president of St. Louis University’s Hispanic Law Student Association. She is cautious about new developments concerning the grant, specifically that qualified people should reapply.

“This can’t be one of those things where we say, ‘It’s a catch-all, that every 'Dreamer' go ahead and do this’,” Arrom said. “It’s important to get legal counsel. It’s important to know your rights. It’s important to be informed on your specific situation.”

The term “Dreamer” refers to a person who can seek relief from deportation under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

In the days following a federal judge’s action to temporarily block DACA, local immigration activists have made efforts to lobby Missouri U.S. lawmakers.

“Our lives are a state of emergency and in the hands of congress [sic],” reads a Facebook statement by the group MO Dreamers. The group is calling for a “clean Dream Act that would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship.”

Among the group’s requests is a policy that would not tie immigration protections to funding for a U.S., Mexico border wall, interior enforcement or detention centers. Members of the group will be at a rally Wednesday at the St. Louis office of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Ashley Lisenby is part of the public radio collaborative “Sharing America,” covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This new initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Portland (Oregon). Follow Ashley on Twitter @aadlisenby.

Ashley Lisenby is the news director of St. Louis Public Radio.