A federal injunction that was issued Tuesday, Jan. 9 temporarily blocked the White House's plans to rescind Obama-era protections for young undocumented immigrants. But some Penn students affected by these policies still worry that their futures remain uncertain.
Last September, President Donald Trump's administration called on Congress to pass legislation replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. This sparked protest on campus, with both students and administrators condemning the decision.
This week, Judge William Alsup, a federal judge from California who issued the injunction blocking the Trump administration from rescinding DACA, said safeguards against deportation must remain in place. His order also ruled that anyone who had recieved DACA status when the program was rescinded in September can renew it while the lawsuit is pending.
On Jan. 13, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services stated that it would continue accepting renewal applications for beneficiaries of DACA.
In a response to the preliminary injunction, USCIS officials stated that beneficiaries of DACA would be able to request a renewal if their status expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016. For people whose status expired before that date, the agency said they can file a new request for deferred action. As expected, USCIS will not accept applications for those who were never DACA recipients.
College freshman and general board member of Penn for Immigrant Rights Ale Cabrales, who is a student protected by DACA, still remains concerned about Congress' ultimate decision.
"Seeing what's going on with [the Temporary Status Program] and how this administration is just constantly shutting down stuff without batting an eye makes me worried," Cabrales said. "I feel like California's action is very temporary and are going to be shut down soon by the administration."
The Trump administration vowed to fight the judge's block on Wednesday, Jan. 10 and has continued nationwide sweeps of undocumented workers.
Cabrales has also been active in protests on campus related to DACA and other changes in immigration reform. She said her DACA status does not expire until next year, and feels optimistic about major support from officials and celebrities, though the final outcome remains unclear.
Engineering sophomore Adrian Armendariz, who currently is protected by DACA, said his status is set to expire in early 2019. Armendariz recalled his initial reaction when he heard the announcement of the reversal of DACA, which he described as a “devastating” decision.
“After a few years of finally feeling relatively safe in this country, it’s all kind of back to this fragile state of living,” he said. “There’s an unpredictable life here.”
On the decision made this past Wednesday, Armendariz echoed other students, saying he has mixed feelings about the California judge’s bold decision.
“Congress still has to get a lot done for anything to be set in stone,” Armendariz said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty everywhere.”
College sophomore and Penn First Internal Outreach Chair Sebastian Gonzalez added that he did not see the bipartisanship deliberation, which is central in determining the outcome of the DACA ruling, being as prioritized as it could be. Gonzalez, who is from El Paso, Texas, one of the largest border towns in the country, spoke about his concern for family and friends at Penn.
“Here at Penn they have to deal with a lot of issues that we all have to deal with at school, but it just adds such a burden on them that personally I couldn’t imagine,” Gonzalez said.
Students mentioned the University resources that continue to support students including those who are undocumented and DACA recipients. College sophomore Dan Gonzalez highlighted special sessions from CAPS for students continuously affected. He also mentioned Associate Director of La Casa Latina Kareli Lizarraga, who was the first teacher with a DACA status through the organization Teach For America, as a resource for help.
"Right now I'm pretty protected," Cabrales said. "I'm pretty privileged at Penn. I have some sense of security. It's freaking me out to think what's going to happen after I leave college. I'll have this Ivy League degree and it will pretty much be worthless. I'll be thrown out into the world – completely unprotected."
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