By Abner Galino
Contrary to popular impression, President Barack Obama’s executive action in 2012 to shield from deportation undocumented persons who came to the US when they were children, otherwise known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, remains in effect despite a recent unfavorable decision by the US Supreme Court on the extent of executive powers to grant immigration relief to millions of undocumented immigrants.
The 4-4 split US Supreme Court “one-sentence” decision simply upheld the preliminary injunction issued by a Texas District Court against the implementation of Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded DACA programs would have provided temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for up to 5.2 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.
This issue was clarified once again during a recent New America Media (NAM) roundtable forum with the White House Initiative on Asia Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), leaders of non-profit organizations and members of the media in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday (July 27).
WHIAAPI senior policy advisor Reva Gupta said that over 130,000 persons of Asian and Pacific Islander descent could be eligible to apply for DACA and some 16,000 of them live in Los Angeles county.
Broken down, the LA numbers involve around 6,000 Koreans, 3,000 Chinese, 3,000 Filipinos and 1,000 Indians.
Reacting to a question, Martha Flores, Chief of Staff of the Los Angeles Field Office, allayed the fears of would-be DACA recipients that a change in political administration may put them in harm’s way.
“As an administrative office, we do not share (DACA) information with ICE and other enforcement arms of the USCIS,” Flores explained.
Forum moderator Odette Keeley of NAM added later on that the more individuals apply and are admitted to the DACA program, the harder it is going to be for a hostile political administration to initiate harmful political actions against them.
In line with this issue, Shiu-Ming Cheer, a senior staff attorney of the National Immigration Center, said pro-immigration advocates would seek a re-hearing of the discontinuing of the DAPA and extended DACA programs when the US Supreme Court has installed its ninth member (its traditional number of justices).
Cheer said the planned split decision is widely viewed as a “non-decision” and does not reflect a substantive opinion of the high court on the issue of the extent of executive powers to provide immigration relief.
The possible effects of the results of approaching presidential elections to the future composition of the Supreme Court was not discussed in the forum but those who were there understood that a hostile political administration could adversely affect immigration cases that are pending or about to be filed with the High Court.
Meanwhile, the Asian American Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA), through its DACA legal advocate Tiffany Panlilio, said the organization continue to assist DACA applicants for free and also help them obtain loans for the a little over than $400 enrolment fee to the said government program.
Panlilio said these loans could be paid back by DACA applicants througha staggered scheme, involving small amount of payments. She added that the cost of enrolling to the program is among the reasons why there has been a low turn out among possible DACA recipients. She added that seeking the help of non-profit organizations could prevent DACA applicants from falling into immigration scams.
DACA recipients Anthony Ng, a Filipino, and Michelle Yoon, a Korean, both shared their testimonies at the forum—highlighting the benefits of getting temporary reliefs from possible deportation and acquiring work authorizations.
Ng and Yoon both shared the upshots of DACA benefits on them. They said they no longer fear being separated from their families and have enjoyed their new found freedoms, among them the ability to travel around the United States, being able to use acquired education in seeking good employment and getting health care benefits.
“If you asked me eight years ago if I thought undocumented people could become lawyers and doctors, I would have told you no, because of the barriers that we face. But because of DACA we were able to pursue our lifelong dreams,” Ng, who is a graduate of University of California-Irvine, told the forum.