By DJ Simmons
Oscar Romero, a UNC Charlotte graduate, says it can cost $500 to submit and renew the application that allows him to remain a “dreamer.”
He is among 24,000 undocumented immigrants across North Carolina called “dreamers,” people who arrived in the United States as children and participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program keeps young undocumented immigrants from being deported and allows them to attend school and apply for work permits.
As the program faces continued legal scrutiny, “dreamers” are hopeful the latest bipartisan congressional effort to revise immigration policy, which includes DACA, has a long-shot chance in changing their lives.
“Who here has heard the question: where do you want to be in five years? Imagine not being able to answer that — with your life in this country revolving on a two-year cycle,” Romero said last week during an online news conference hosted by local DACA advocates.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina and Sen. Krysten Sinema — a former Democrat turned Independent representing Arizona — are working on a last-minute deal before Congress breaks for the holidays that creates a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
In exchange, the bipartisan deal calls for creating legislation that would add $25 billion in increased funding for the Border Patrol and border security, the Washington Post first reported.
Federal lawmakers are still hashing out the bipartisan framework. Part of it calls for extending the Title 42 expulsions until new processing centers are built for migrants. Title 42 is an arcane provision of U.S. health law, which the Trump administration used during the pandemic that allowed asylum seekers to be rejected at the border as their claims were being processed.
Rebekah Niblock, an immigration attorney with the Charlotte Center of Legal Advocacy, said it was tough to see that the bill could extend Title 42. But allowing ”dreamers” who have been here for so many years to finally get their citizenship is important, she said.
“In looking at this possible bill, I do see the huge compromise,” Niblock said. “It is very difficult, but I’m hopeful this bill will pass.”
The legislation could provide some stability for DACA recipients whose lives have been in flux over the past decade, she said.
Judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against DACA in October. That decision sent it back to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who ruled the program can remain temporarily, with limitations, while he reviews Biden administration revisions made in August.
Niblock said the court decision has frozen applications for newer recipients. Two clients she helped apply for DACA in 2020 remain in limbo as the courts weigh its legality, she said.
“They haven’t even received a denial,” Niblock said. “Their cases are just sitting there with no decision whatsoever.”
There are many who were hesitant to apply for DACA. These people should be taken into account in any proposed bill, she added.As legal issues persist, North Carolina ‘dreamers’ hope bipartisan deal saves the day