DACA Students Have Until Thursday To Register

Dream Act recipients will have until tomorrow to renew their application an immigration lawyer said this week.

DACA panelists meet for excel series hosted by student life. Photo by Savannah Melher
DACA panelists meet for excel series hosted by student life. Photo by Savannah Melher

Speaking at a meeting on the Oklahoma City Community College campus, Larry Davis, a certified public accountant and immigration lawyer at Sunbeam Family Services, urged Dream Act students to hurry and comply with the law.

“People whose status will expire before March fifth 2018 have until October fifth 2017 to fill out an extension, so they have two days,” Davis said. Davis said when DACA was first created in 2012 by the Obama administration. There are about 600,000 undocumented immigrants in immigration court.

“People enter the country in different ways, as a citizen, permanent resident, there a refugee, or a non-immigrant order and documented/their status has expired,” Davis said. He said the first four don’t have to worry about the DACA repeal, but those undocumented or with expired status’ can be deported.

Youana Medina, an OCCC graduate, said applying for DACA allowed her to go to college in 2012 despite her father being deported months before.

“There are some undocumented people who will tell you they didn’t know they were undocumented until high school because they couldn’t get their driver’s license,” Medina said.

“In my case, I always knew,” she said.

Medina said her family was always very careful to not to give the status away of her or her family in hopes no one would find them.

It would be a fear she dealt with everyday.

“I remember when I would go to the grocery store with my parents, and they would always be super cautious,” she said. “We would make sure to stay within the lines and not attract attention to us so there would be no repercussions.”

She said being undocumented only made her try harder in life.

“Knowing that we were undocumented helped me know that I wanted to go to college, and that I wanted to make something of myself,” Medina said. “I applied for Oklahoma Promise, but I knew I wouldn’t get it.”

College students who want to continue attending will still be able to go to class after their application has expired, but it will not be easy to remain in the United States without the threat of deportation.

“You don’t have to have DACA to attend college,” Serena Prammanasudh, Coordinator for Dream Act OK, said. “It’s just an uphill battle, and you’re not going to be eligible for financial aid.”

Youana said she received several scholarships despite not receiving federal aid even with DACA, because of her academic achievements.

After graduating from Southeast High School in 2011 with honors ranking number six in her class, Medina received scholarships from the McDonald’s Foundation, Latino Development Agency and Women of the South.

“My parents pushed us to pursue an education, so we could provide ourselves a better life,” Medina said. “So I did everything a good kid would do: I got good grades, volunteered, and I was in sports.”

She said she applied at OCCC because she knew it was a better fit for her financially.

Medina, who would attend OCCC that fall, was packing for the National Council of La Raza in Washington when her father was deported.

“I remember Monday morning when my mom, the day before we were going to leave to Washington DC for the NCLR conference, came into my room freaking out,” she said.

Her mom was crying hysterically, Medina said. She said had never seen her mother that way, and wondered if someone died.

That’s when her mother told her, “I can’t find your father.”

“My mom usually watches my father leave for work every morning, but that day she had to use the bathroom,” Medina said. “So when she comes back to the door to see if he left the car was still there, but he was not.”

Medina said when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers pick up people they don’t do it during the day where others can see, they come when no one is watching.

“She went to the car, she saw his lunch box, his wallet, his cell phone, and keys. But no dad,” she said.

Mary Ann Al-Sharif, Director of Recruitment and Admissions at OCCC, said sometimes parents and undocumented students are hesitant to put their information down, because they believe someone will hand their names over to authorities.

“There is opportunity here for DACA students,” Al-Sharif said. “They are welcome here, and we are happy to have them. I can’t echo enough that they don’t need to have that fear, and that they are welcome here.  think there is a lot of opportunity here for students to move forward in their education.”

Al-Sharif said students from inner city schools who are undocumented and want to go to Oklahoma City Community College can receive a scholarship that will waive tuition. She also said undocumented students who graduate can receive their diploma.

Janie Tapia, a representative of Catholic Charities, said her mother told her she could have 10 kids who are citizens still not get a Green Card.

“I would say unfortunately no,” she said.

Tapia said undocumented children have to petition for their parents to be citizens because the law changed, but it’s not an easy path to citizenship.

Davis, the immigration attorney, said if students who don’t have the status to petition for their parents can go to the U.S. Consulate to get a green card. He said DACA recipients should go before their status expires.

“If a DACA recipient has been married for six years prior to the removal they can still get green cards,” he said.

Tapia urged DACA recipients who want to renew their applications to seek legal help. She said those students with financial issues could get help from Catholic Charities.

Prammanasudh, with Dream Act OK, said her organization offers assistance to anyone who asks.

“Since the new administration took office we were wary as to what their info could be used for,” she said. “So we were doing renewal applications and we did two clinics last weekend to make sure people had their applications in before the deadline.”

She said the Dream Act proposed in 2007 would help more people because, DACA does not a guaranteed a status.

“The Dream Act would cover the most amount of dreamers, because it qualifies you if you entered the United States before you’re 18 you would be eligible.”

Davis said the administration was put in a bind earlier this year when several state attorney generals threatened to take the federal government to court over the validity of DACA.

“If they would’ve went to federal court, and ruled against DACA,” he said. Overnight they could make [recipients] illegal.”

He said this was what President Donald Trump had to deal with when making the decision to remove the act. Davis said Trump made the best decision he could have in the situation.

“It was the least of the problems,” he said. “It would have been better if Congress had acted. These people deserve some kind of legal status.”

Davis said one of the most conservative bills produced by United States Senate came from Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma.  Lankford, who agreed with Trump earlier in September about the removal of DACA, said the DREAM Act cannot be passed.

“In 2007, the DREAM act failed in the Senate,” he said. “In 2010, with a Democrat controlled congress and white house, it also failed to pass.”

Lankford said another problem with previous immigration reform acts was their inability to prevent chain migration. Lankford’s SUCCEED act is supposed to prevent immigrant children from leaving the United States for fear of deportation.

“The bill provides a fair, multistep process to give DACA kids a home, while also prohibiting chain migration during the process, and discouraging future illegal immigration,” Lankford said. “The SUCCEED act only covers young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents before the age of 16 and before June 15th, 2012 the enactment date of DACA.”

Davis urged Oklahomans to call Lankford and tell him change his bill.

The panel said the way to persuade senators and representatives was to remind them Oklahoma a $343.6 million if DACA is rolled back.

Medina urged people to organize.

“It’s 12 weeks before congress goes to special session, so participate in the different events the Dream Act OK [will have],” she said. “We can bring more awareness, so people will call their Senators, and House Representatives in support for the Dream Act.

Medina who received her Bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma University recently, said her education will no longer matter after her status expires next year.

She said if congress doesn’t decide on a new Act, “Then there’s nothing I can do.”

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