Dreamers’ still at risk as clarity is sought on policy

McALLEN — Confusion surrounding new policies that led to the detainment of nine DACA recipients at the Falfurrias checkpoint on Monday remain unresolved following a Rio Grande Valley congressman’s hourlong meeting with President Donald Trump.

“We talked to folks back (in McAllen) and we talked to folks up here in Washington, and there seems to be a slight feeling of maybe the right hand is not talking to the left hand, and that’s a problem,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said of efforts to clarify a Department of Homeland Security policy that, according to local Border Patrol authorities, was in effect as of Monday but had otherwise gone unannounced to the general public.

The policy in question enacts a deadline for applications to the federal program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — that protects DREAMers, such as the nine detained at the checkpoint, from deportation. It also calls for the denial of any future applications.

“As of Sept. 5, 2017, DACA applications will no longer be accepted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),” reads the DHS policy that Robert Rodriguez, spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, relayed via email. “USCIS will reject all requests to renew DACA and associated applications for employment authorizations filed after Oct. 5, 2017.”

Rodriguez also shared a CBP policy to temporarily detain DACA recipients who present themselves for immigration inspection “for accuracy and verification of status.”

Although Rodriguez provided these policies in response to media inquiries about Monday’s detainment, neither have been directly attributed for the cause of holding the recipients for several hours that day.

In an effort to clear up the confusion regarding the status of nearly 1 million undocumented youth, Gonzalez’s legislative aides are set to meet with Customs and Border Protection officials, including Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Manuel Padilla, to get a further explanation of what those policies are.

Such efforts included a letter Gonzalez penned to Trump on Wednesday seeking clarity — this hours before his meeting with the president in the White House. Gonzalez also issued a warning in the letter reminding DACA recipients that they cannot travel outside the country.

“I urge all DACA recipients to stay alert and refrain from traveling to Mexico or anywhere else outside of the U.S. at this time,” Gonzalez said in the letter, which included his pledge to stand with them while advocating for HR 3440, the Dream Act of 2017.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who was also in attendance for the meeting with Trump, said the president was wanting to “move quickly” on legislation for DREAMers, and that his request for funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would be independent from the plan to protect DACA recipients, according to a news release.

“During the meeting, the president reassured me that he does not want to wait six months for Congress to come up with a solution for our nation’s young immigrants, and that he is committed to supporting legislation on the House floor for DACA recipients,” Cuellar said in a statement about the aforementioned meeting with a bi-partisan group of fellow lawmakers, who sat down with the president to discuss the fall agenda Wednesday afternoon. “He then went as far as to say that there will be a floor vote on DACA legislation.”

Hoping Trump will remain “true to his word,” Cuellar underscored DACA recipients being law-abiding residents who have met all legal requirements for the federal program that grants them protection from deportation.

“The vast majority of DACA recipients are outstanding members of our community that pay taxes and contribute greatly to our nation,” Cuellar stated. “Making sure we have the proper legislation, that is not bogged down with partisan extraneous proposals, ready to pass both chambers is one of my top priorities. I encourage my colleagues to do what’s right for these young people who are Americans and who have only known the United States to be their home.”

Campaign director Julieta Garibay of United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization made up of a nonpartisan network of more than 100,000 immigrant youth and allies, as well as 55 affiliate organizations in nearly 30 states, asked for a legislative resolution that did not involve leveraging immigrant rights.

“We will not be pushed into darkness, and we are committed to our fight for human dignity and respect,” an impassioned Garibay said. “But let me be clear about one thing: We will not accept any legislation that comes at the expense of our families; that further militarizes our borders or funds mass deportations, detention camps, or a wall. Immigrant youth will not be used as a bargaining chip for racist politicians.”

A conference call Wednesday hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union included statements from United We Dream and La Union Del Pueblo Entero — or LUPE.

Astrid Dominguez, speaking on behalf of the ACLU of Texas, said Trump’s decision to phase out DACA endangered the lives of the nearly 1 million recipients on the federal program.

“ …The incident this week shows the true impact of his decision: chaos, uncertainty and division in our community,” Dominguez said after referencing the president’s tweet that no DREAMers should worry. “In one reckless decision, President Trump jeopardized the future of 800,000 young people who are American in all but paperwork — 20 percent of whom live in border towns. The detention of nine DACA recipients this week underscores the urgency for Congress to pass a bipartisan Dream Act.”