(CN) – Immigrants protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are safe for now thanks to injunctions that blocked the Trump administration from ending the program, but Texas has its sights set on litigation that could jeopardize their status.
Without a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in San Francisco, or a nearly identical follow-up injunction imposed by a federal judge in Brooklyn, DACA recipients whose benefits expired after Monday would have been unable to reapply for the program. Many of the estimated 700,000 immigrants enrolled, known as “Dreamers,” are now scrambling to get their renewal applications ready.
Karla Perez, 25, is a University of Houston law student on track to graduate in May. She came to the United States at age 2 with her parents from Mexico City.
She said she would not have been able to file a renewal application without the injunction because her DACA status expired after Monday. She expects to start the renewal process in late March.
Dreamers pay U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services a $500 application fee and must be interviewed by the agency, which fingerprints and photographs them, before a decision on their cases can be made.
If approved, DACA grants them protection from deportation and allows them to get federal work permits for renewable two-year periods.
“I myself have been a DACA beneficiary since 2012. And that changed my life in terms of more certainty in my future, stability, being able to apply for a work permit and, with that, being able to have amazing internships,” Perez said in a phone interview.
She said she has helped dozens of immigrants apply for the program at legal-aid clinics and workshops in Houston, so she disagrees with comments White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made in early February that the estimated 1.3 million immigrants eligible for DACA who did not sign up for it “were too afraid to sign up” or “too lazy to get off their asses.”
To qualify, immigrants had to have entered the United States before age 16 and to provide proof that they had continuously resided in the country since June 15, 2007.
President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the program starting on Sept. 5, 2017, shuts out anyone who qualified for DACA, but had not yet filed their initial application by that date.
Perez said she had no trouble proving her long-term residency in the U.S.
“It wasn’t so much a challenge for me because my mom has kept everything that I’ve brought home from school since pre-kindergarten. So she has all of my report cards, pictures, medical records and vaccinations,” Perez said.
But the program’s seemingly arbitrary deadlines have prevented many others from qualifying, Perez said.
She said she knows an immigrant who entered the United States shortly before the 2007 cutoff date. His caretaker took some time to figure out how to enroll him in school, so he did not enroll until July 2007, and had no documentation needed to qualify.
The application fee is also an obstacle, Perez said.
“I have a friend who for them that was the case. They did not have money. So they would have had the money in like a few more weeks,” she said. “So there are a lot of people like that, a large amount of people who have fallen through that crack.”