Post-government shutdown, absent DACA deal worries Dreamers

Post-government shutdown, absent DACA deal worries Dreamers
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It has been an emotional roller coaster for Maurice Goldman - one he's been riding with his clients.

"We were hoping that Congress and the Senate would get a resolution through. Yet again, here we are. We're back to a situation of uncertainty and this has been going on not only for the past several months but for the past 15 years," said Goldman, an immigration attorney with Goldman & Goldman, PC, in Tucson.

On Monday, Jan. 23, the first government shutdown of Donald Trump's presidency ended after 69 hours.

The short-term deal that broke the Senate stalemate over immigration and border security did not include any measures to provide a long-term deal for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, or people brought to the U.S. as children who are now in the country illegally.

There is a state of confusion for an estimated 700,000 people who are DACA recipients in the United States, including about 30,000 individuals living in Arizona. Their status is constantly in flux as no permanent path to citizenship has been established.

Mical Alvarado Diaz is one of them. It's been more than 16 years of uncertainty for her, as she learned the latest budget deal would not be giving her any assistance.

"It was disappointing. But I can't say it was surprising," she said. "This is a community that I love, that I've grown to love. So it's sad to consider that my future plans might have to be somewhere else."

Like 700,000 others, she arrived in the U.S. as a young child, when she was 5 years old. Now 22 years old, she is wondering what is next on the path to citizenship.

An Associated Press (AP) report, filed by the New Jersey Daily Record, shared stories of DACA recipients anxious to file their paperwork for renewal due to monetary fears and uncertainty.

"There are a lot of hesitations. I mean, it's very expensive," Alvarado Diaz told Tucson News Now. "Every application, initial or renewal, is almost $500. I don't know too many people that just have $500 laying around."

It's one of the biggest concerns for Goldman, who said that people are spending their hard-earned money to file these renewals with no guarantee that they are going to see a return on their investment.

"I tell them the risk. I tell them that the primary risk is you file, and if you're using your own funds to file it you could be out the $495, which is the amount they have to pay for it. People are still going ahead and filing," he said.

Or worse - other than losing their money - they could lose their jobs as undocumented immigr ants should the DACA program's temporary status expire. Or, as Alvarado Diaz explained, they could lose their driver's license, which can be extremely difficult for parents and employed individuals needing to provide for their families.

Their fate is in the hands of those on Capitol Hill.

The AP reports that insistence by Senate Democrats on protections for young immigr ants living in the country illegally led to the government shutdown over the weekend. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's pledge to take up immigration proposals cleared the way for a temporary spending bill funding the government through Feb. 8.

President Trump tweeted Tuesday: "Nobody knows for sure that the Republicans & Democrats will be able to reach a deal on DACA by Feb. 8, but everyone will be trying....with a big additional focus put on Military Strength and Border Security. The Dems have just learned that a Shutdown is not the answer!"

President Trump ended the DACA program late last year. Congress is tasked with passing legislation to extend DACA before the Trump-imposed March 5 expiration date.

That day looms large for Alvarado Diaz but she is hopeful.

After calling Tucson home for about 16 years, she is hopeful it will stay her home for her and thousands more.

"They came here months-old. So to say return to your country, that's a country that they don't know at all. So I can't really fathom an alternative."

WANT MORE? Download the Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2018 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.