© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump commits to continued protection for young, unauthorized immigrants — for now

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and is studying to be a teacher
File photo | Jenny Simeone-Casas | St. Louis Public Radio
Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and is studying to be a teacher."

Young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, and received temporary Social Security numbers and work permits under an Obama-era program can keep their protections — for now.


Breaking a promise made on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump announced last week that he would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but hasn’t said for how long. Missouri is home to almost 4,000 DACA permit holders.


Jim Hacking, an immigration attorney in Webster Groves, said he, as well as his clients who are covered under the program are skeptical about the announcement.


“They’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Hacking said. “With immigration enforcement and deportations on the rise, I think that a lot of people are taking this with a huge grain of salt. No one is feeling that much safer. It’s been a small little victory.”


Areli Muñoz Reyes applied to renew her DACA status on Monday (something every DACA permit holder has to do every two years), but the announcement didn’t make her feel any safer from deportation.


“It’s not a win for us. It’s been five years since President Obama gave us DACA, but we want permanent protection and dignity for all undocumented people,” Muñoz Reyes said. “Yes, I’m going to be here legally — but I’m still in fear.”


Muñoz Reyes also lamented that in the same announcement to extend the program, the Trump administration put an end to a similar program for the parents of young unauthorized immigrants — the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program.


“Our family watched Trump’s announcement [making] it final that our parents are not going to be able to get any work permit or Social Security number,” Muñoz Reyes said. “We want our parents to be here. It feels like nobody is really safe. ”


Missouri State Rep.Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican from southwest Missouri, has never been a supporter of the DACA program, and even led the charge for state policies a few years ago that require DACA students to pay international rates in Missouri’s public colleges. Although he differs with Muñoz Reyes ideologically, Fitzpatrick agrees the announcement that DACA “will remain in effect” didn't change much.


“I don’t know what that means, if [Trump] will revisit it later, if he’s just not going to rescind it,” said Fitzpatrick, who is also the chairman of the House Budget Committee. “I’m not looking at any of this as a win or a setback. If DACA ends up at some point being rescinded, then maybe it makes some of the language we use in the budget unnecessary. But beyond that, I don’t see any impact on the state.”


Whether they support the program or hope for an end to DACA, both sides expressed a belief that it would be the members of Congress, not the president, who would determine the fate of the program and its recipients.


Follow Jenny on Twitter @jnnsmn