End to DACA could hit Elmont hard

Residents face deportation if DACA ends

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The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decline to hear President Trump’s appeal of a lower court opinion that temporarily blocked his order to end the Obama-era immigration policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

DACA postpones deportation for so-called Dreamers — young immigrants who entered the country as minors, and had remained in the U.S. illegally —and allows them to receive work and study visas.

With its large Haitian population, Elmont would be especially vulnerable if any or all DACA programs were terminated. More than 10.5 percent of the community’s 33,000 residents are of Haitian ancestry, and local Haitian groups say that at least 10 percent of that population would be vulnerable if DACA were rescinded, according to Mimi Pierre-Johnson, a local community activist. “We think about 350 or more of our residents could be in trouble if Trump gets his way,” she said. Haitians are one of the groups being targeted most aggressively.

Such minority groups are vulnerable in at least two ways, according to Pierre-Johnson. “Those who are more affluent and have legal papers have brought family over to care for their children or help in their businesses,” she said. If DACA were rescinded, those relatives would be sent back.

Haiti has experienced two devastating earthquakes, in 2012 and 2017. “People don’t have anything to go back to now,” Pierre-Johnson said.

To be eligible for DACA, immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthdays, lived in the country since June 15, 2007, and been younger than 31 when the program began in 2012. And every Dreamer who has received DACA status is either enrolled in high school or has graduated, according to “Profile of Current DACA Recipients by Education, Industry, and Occupation” a report from the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank. Eighteen percent of DACA recipients were enrolled in college,.

Of those who were not attending school, roughly 380,000 were employed, according to the MPI report. The most common industries of employment for DACA recipients were hospitality, retail trade, construction, education, health and social services, and professional services, according to a 2017 report by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an immigration law and policy advocacy group. 

Trump issued an executive order ending acceptance of DACA applications last September and renewals by March 5. But federal district courts in California and New York ruled that the government’s arguments in canceling the program were “arbitrary and capricious,” and issued temporary injunctions halting the rescission of DACA nationwide.

In New York, Senior Judge Nicholas Garaufis, ruling for the Eastern District of New York, found that the Trump administration was “wrong on the law, wrong on the facts, and acted arbitrarily and capriciously,” said Karen Tumin during a Feb. 13 conference call. Tumin was lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, Batalla et al. v. United States.

 The “federal court ruling is a victory for the over 42,000 New York Dreamers and more than 700,000 Dreamers across the country,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said of the ruling in a Feb. 13 news release. Schneiderman led the coalition of 17 attorneys general that sued last year to defend DACA.  

While the New York and California rulings temporarily placed a nationwide injunction on DACA’s rescission, they do not prevent the government from denying any new applications or renewals. Nor did the judges in either case find that the president did not have the authority to end the program or other similar programs, such as the program for parents and the Temporary Sanctuary Program. The judges found only that the government’s arguments that President Obama lacked the legal authority to establish the programs in the first place were not supported in law.

Currently, some 700,000 immigrants in the U.S. are in the country under the DACA program, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but the Migration Policy Institute says that more than a million people were eligible to apply before Trump’s order took effect. And about 7,000 of those eligible for DACA live in Nassau County, according to the MPI’s 2017 analysis of DACA recipients.

With 380,000 DACA recipients in the workforce, several think tanks, such as the Center for American Progress and the conservative Cato Institute, estimate that the removal of DACA could cost the U.S. economy between $280 billion and $430 billion over the next 10 years. The decrease in Social Security and Medicare contributions could amount to $31.8 billion and $7.4 billion, respectively, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s report. It also points out, “As both trust funds use contributions from today’s workers to pay out current obligations, the reduction in contributions reduces the immediately available funds to pay today’s U.S. citizen seniors and others currently eligible for these programs.”

And the drop-off is expected to happen quickly, according to the MPI. Roughly 900 DACA recipients will lose their documented status every day for the next two years, starting March 6. In March 2019 alone, more than 50,000 will lose their status. The reports note that when these Dreamers fall back into undocumented status and lose their work permits, they would most likely be laid off and find themselves identified for deportation. 

Look for a series of articles on the immigration crisis beginning next week.