Outside pressure harm UT’s immigrant community

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Josephine MacLean

In an effort to reign in executive power and force Congress’s hand on immigration reform, the Trump administration has decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy within the next six months.

Unless Congress rapidly produces legislation to protect the 124,300  young immigrants currently under DACA,  — people brought to the U.S. by their families as children — could face deportation from Texas alone.  

“So I have a six month window, and if nothing happens, basically all my doors are going to be shut,” said Daniel Barrera, a petroleum engineering sophomore who’s family is from Juarez, Mexico, but who grew up in the U.S.

Barrera is a Dreamer. He attends UT because of DACA.

“Applying for college was my own Odyssey,” Barrera said. “I was afraid to apply to public schools because they asked my status … then later, when I went to orientation, I was thinking, are they gonna question me or deny me my spot if anyone finds out?”

“If nothing happens (in six months), that’s it. I’ll have to leave,” Barrera said.

He’s not alone. Since DACA’s creation five years ago nearly 790,000 young immigrants have been shielded from deportation.

Regardless of whether or not DACA was built on executive overreach, Texas relies on its Dreamers. In January, the Center for American Progress reported that if DACA were to end, Texas alone would lose 104,000 workers, and 6.1 billion dollars annually.

DACA recipients aren’t the only ones facing imminent change in their immigration status. “There is a great concern given this administration’s focus on cutting back on legal immigration options too,” said Elissa Steglich, clinical professor at the Immigration Clinic at UT’s School of Law.

Most urgently, Temporary Protected Status holders, some of whom have been here since the 1990s, could be in danger of being deported should the Trump administration choose not to extend TPS into the new year.

Activists across Texas recently celebrated a small victory when Judge Garcia placed SB 4 under temporary injunction. The key word there is temporary. SB 4 would have required local governments to honor all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests — despite both legal and safety risks to the community.

“Practically speaking, this (injunction) order just preserves the status quo for now,” explained Caitlin Boehne, a Staff Attorney at the Equal Justice Center. Even before SB 4, precedent set by Arizona’s immigration policy meant that police with reasonable suspicion can ask anyone who is lawfully stopped about their immigration status.

Despite the temporary injunction, SB 4’s effects are already felt in the immigrant community. Barrera said neither he nor his family would seek police help should an emergency arise, a restraint observed across the state. In April, after SB 4 was announced, Houston PD measured a 43 percent decrease in rape reports from Hispanic residents.

“It’s like a heavy weight you carry around, you wake up every morning thinking am I going to be okay?” Barrera explained. “I ask, are my mom and sisters going to be okay? Am I going be able to go back to my apartment tonight?”

Federally speaking, the ball is in the legislature’s court. Whether or not our divided Congress can band together to protect vulnerable residents remains to be seen.

On a state level, Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton have announced that they plan to appeal the injunction immediately.  

But here at UT, Daniel Barrera doesn’t know what will happen in the next six months.

MacLean is an advertising and geography junior from Austin. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @maclean_josie