NEW YORK (AP) – When the text message appeared on his phone, Samuel Alfaro couldn’t believe it.
He said his appointment with U.S. immigration services regarding his application to join the Child Arrivals Deferred Action Program, the one he had been waiting for months, was canceled due to a court order ending Obama-era deportation protections for people brought to us as children.
“I thought it was a scam,” the 19-year-old from Houston said of the message he received on Sunday night, hours before his date.
Alfaro took to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website and “kept checking it, updating it every few hours.” He later received an email confirming it was true.
Now he just feels “a little sad”.
Alfaro is not the only one. Tens of thousands of immigrant youth in the country without legal status are in the same situation following a July 16 ruling by a Texas federal judge that declared DACA illegal while leaving the program untouched for beneficiaries existing.
The decision bars the government from approving any new requests, like that of Alfaro, whose parents brought him from Mexico to the United States when he was 2 years old, along with his older brother. Immigrants and advocates said they would appeal.
In a statement, the Citizenship and Immigration Services said they would “comply with the court order, continue to implement the components of the DACA that remain in place.”
It’s the latest twist on the program, which has been canceled and relaunched in a steady stream of court challenges since President Barack Obama created it by executive order in 2012.
Former President Donald Trump announced early on that he was ending the program, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year determined he hadn’t done it right, bringing him back to the life and allowing new requests like that of Alfaro, who filed at the beginning of the year.
The latest ruling calling DACA illegal involved a lawsuit filed by Texas and eight other states. They said that Obama did not have the power to create the program and that it was an action within the power of Congress.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston agreed, saying in his ruling that “the clear articulation of the laws of Congress on dismissal, legal presence and work authorization illustrates a clear intention to reserve the power to determine. the framework of the country’s immigration system.
Immigration lawyers say the court ruling has rekindled fears about the program’s future and once again puts young immigrants in a precarious position.
Attorney Max Meyers of the Mississippi Center for Justice was preparing to submit DACA documents on behalf of 40 young immigrants last week, mostly first-time applicants. But he had to abandon these plans.
“It just leaves everyone in limbo again,” he said. “Rather than people treating people like humans with basic needs to go to school and be able to find a job, a judge has ruled that politics is more important to do away with that.”
Lawyers have been told that as of last week, Citizenship and Immigration Services had 90,000 new DACA applications pending, according to Astrid Silva, executive director of Dream Big Nevada.
She said the agency received 50,000 requests in the first three months of the year, but made decisions on fewer than 1,000.
After the application period opened in December following the Supreme Court ruling, Silva said lawyers were patient with the delays, understanding that the agency could face a backlog due to the pandemic of coronavirus or other problems. But over time, they started to wonder what was wrong.
“We started to see these problems from the start,” said Silva. “We’ve figured out COVID and the mail and UPS, and we’ve had an insurgency and it’s Christmas. We have been, quite frankly, very patient. I think a lot of us felt like it was a blessing and we can wait a bit.
“For us, the frustration has really been since January,” she said.
Now the apps are at a standstill. Silva said advocates always encourage eligible people to apply in the hope that their applications will eventually be processed and because having something pending with immigration authorities is better than nothing.
She has received calls from mothers worried about what this means for their children.
“The apps will literally be kept in a box somewhere,” Silva said.
Esperanza Avila, 21, submitted her application about a month ago and assumes she is among those on hold. As she relies on the program to help her find a steady job at Home Depot or as a restaurant waiter while she continues her nursing education in Los Angeles, Avila said she was not losing. hope.
“We’ve been through this before. They dropped DACA, they put it back up. It’s like ups and downs, ”she said. “I think we will be fine in the end. “
DACA supporters say Congress must approve legislation that would provide permanent protection for immigrant youth. The House passed a measure that would create a path to citizenship, but it went nowhere in the Senate. There’s also hope that something could be included in the budget legislation Democrats want to pass, but it’s unclear if that will happen.
Alfaro would love to see him. He saw the sense of freedom that DACA gave his older brother, who initially applied shortly after Obama offered it. At the time Alfaro was eligible, the Trump administration was in charge and DACA out of reach.
When Alfaro, the 19-year-old from Houston, submitted his claim and hundreds of dollars in fees this year, he felt it was the start of a life where he didn’t have to constantly look over his head. shoulder because he had no papers.
“You can get a driver’s license and not be afraid of being arrested,” he said.
Alfaro looked forward to building a credit score, getting a well-paying job, and maybe moving out on his own.
He doesn’t know what to do now except wait. He tries to find the optimism to cling to, like the comments he sees people posting online.
“They say it will come back for sure, it’s only a matter of time,” Alfaro said hopefully.
But, he adds quietly, “the wait, again, is stressful.”
Tareen reported from Chicago and Taxin Orange County, California.
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