DACA numbers increase in El Paso

According+to+a+report+published+by+the+U.S.+Citizenship+and+Immigration+Services+in+June%2C+more+than+638%2C000+immigrants+have+applied+for+DACA+since+it+was+initiated.

Cristina Esquivel

According to a report published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in June, more than 638,000 immigrants have applied for DACA since it was initiated.

Jose Soto, Staff Reporter

The Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, a local immigration law clinic, has seen a gradual increase in undocumented immigrants interested in applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“Here at DMRS, we’ve seen a lot of people coming in that are interested in applying for the plan,” said Melissa Lopez, executive director and attorney with DMRS. “A lot of them are renewing their application, but there are also a good amount of people who are applying for the first time.”

Lopez said that there is more trust in the plan now that it is in its second year, and that undocumented immigrants are not as fearful.

“Since many people have seen first-time applicants remaining in the country without deportation orders, they feel like this time around they can trust that applying doesn’t mean something unfavorable will happen,” Lopez said. “They’ve seen friends and family go through the process without negative side effects.”

Lopez also said that, assuming the applications keep coming in and the plan continues, she would consider it a success.

“People should come in and get a real idea of what the plan offers,” Lopez said. “It’s like people coming out of the dark.”

El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-TX, said that DACA is a functioning plan but it still needs work.

“An August 2014 report by the Migration Policy Institute shows impressive application figures for DACA during its first two years,” O’Rourke said. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform’s success or failure will likely have a large impact on the number of people planning to enroll in DACA in years ahead.”

O’Rourke said that comprehensive reform is the way to fix what he believes to be a broken
immigration system.

“I think we can do better,” O’Rourke said. “We need to overhaul our immigration and visa programs so that individuals can legally come to the U.S. to contribute to our economy. It is illogical that we train immigrant scientists and engineers at our universities, but then deny them a visa to stay and help grow our economy.”

Undocumented students who are considering applying or have applied for DACA may find it difficult to continue or start their
post-secondary education.

Jose Ruben Torres, assistant director of the financial aid department at UTEP, said that students who are not documented are not eligible for financial assistance.

“Individuals who are renewing their application for DACA or applying for the first time are basically in limbo,” Torres said. “Therefore, they are not eligible for financial aid until they are either granted residency or they become citizens.”

Torres also said that students who are here without proper documentation and attended high school in the United States can classify under House Bill 1403 for in-state tuition.  Also, by completing a Texas Application for State Financial Aid, students without legal status can qualify for some state funding.

According to a report published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in June, more than 638,000 immigrants have applied for DACA since it was initiated, with more than half of the applicants residing in Texas and California.

According to a factual spreadsheet provided by Migration Policy Institution, there are 10,000 potentially eligible candidates for DACA in El Paso, 6,000 of which are immediate eligible youths ages 15 and over. According to the offices of State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, approximately 40 individuals participated in an October workshop held at the El Paso Community College Mission del Paso campus for interested individuals.

Present Barack Obama passed an executive order in 2012 issuing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The plan is a discreet and offers a limited option provided by the Department of Homeland Security for immigrants who find themselves in the process of removal, have their final removal paperwork or who have never been in the process, but emigrated as children and have grown up in the U.S. Individuals who are waiting for deferred action proceedings can, under U.S. law, apply for employment and for permanent residency or citizenship. 

DACA is offered to individuals who entered the country before they were 16 years of age and were under 31 years of age before 2012. They also must have resided within the U.S. continuously from 2007 to the present. Under DACA requirements, applicants must be currently in school, have graduated from high school or have received their GED.

Jose Soto may be reached at [email protected]