BUZZ: Options Amid Uncertainty

By on September 20, 2017

DACA marchers walking through town square during Old Bill’s Fun Run

DACA decision prompts regional action from Mexico and Salt Lake City. 

The White House’s recent announcement about its plan to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) put the lives of approximately 620 Wyoming residents in jeopardy, but the Mexican consulate in Salt Lake City wants them to know they have options. 

“On a broad level, it’s our interest to serve a really underserved population,” said Consul José Borjón. “I know a lot of Mexican immigrants are contributing to the community. They have needs. [We will] try to work out what are the options for those who are eligible to renew or not.”

Representatives from the Mexican consulate will be in Jackson this Saturday to help eligible people re-apply for DACA status, while reviewing options for people who are not eligible for renewal. 

Should you need a refresher on DACA, here it is: DACA is an Obama-era protective status that protects eligible young people who were brought to the US as children from deportation for two years.  Former president Barack Obama signed the executive order in 2012. 

Approximately 800,000 people across the country have qualified for the grant. The current administration decided to rescind what they see as governmental overreach, a move formally announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on September 5, despite former promises from the president that DACA recipients had “nothing to worry about.” 

Current DACA recipients whose grant expires before March 5 are eligible to re-apply by or before October 5. But many DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, don’t have that option. In either case, the Mexican consulate wants to help. 

“People should be very aware of what are their options,” Borjón said. 

The workshop, co-hosted by local non-profit One22, will take place all day Saturday at the library in Jackson. Local attorneys and legal support from the Mexican consulate are prepared to go over DACA recipients’ situations case-by-case and determine the best course of action.  

Scholarships will also be available for a handful of Mexican nationals to help with the $495 renewal fee. 

“We are obviously giving preference to others who are with another kind of dire situation,” Borjón said. “We’ll see each case, see what are the circumstances, and if we can financially support that process.”

Scholarships are only available to Mexican nationals through the consulate, but consults are available to any and all concerned DACA recipients, Borjón said, clarifying that indeed, many DACA recipients across the country come from countries other than Mexico. 

The consulate is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, but is also responsible for Western Wyoming. It has partnerships and contracts with immigrant lawyers in the region, Borjón explained, that makes free consultations possible for Mexican nationals. 

Misinformation, Borjón said, is a huge risk for an already vulnerable immigrant population. The consulate hopes to set the record straight. 

Consulate personnel typically make two or three visits to Jackson a year to answer immigration-related questions, Borjón said, but this visit feels more urgent. 

“With the recent decision to rescind DACA, we need to be much more on the ground, active,” Borjón said. 

Dreamers who are not eligible to renew their DACA status do have options for other forms of legal residency, Borjón said, but they are few. 

“Maybe you’re already married to a US citizen, you could be eligible,” he said. 

Work or family sponsorships are an option, but are hard to come by. Victims of a crime could also qualify for a U visa, a nonimmigrant visa available to people who have suffered mental and physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement in an investigation. 

But the reality, Borjón said, is “many will not have much options, and will go back to before DACA.” As in, go back into hiding. Fly under the radar. 

“That’s not helpful overall for anyone in the community,” Borjón said. “It’s really regretful. I really hope, at least at a national level, Congress can work out a solution.”

Of course, another option for non-eligible immigrants is to return to their country of birth, even though most consider the United States home. Many DACA recipients, like Blanca Aburto, who shared her story with PJH last week, haven’t seen their home countries since they were old enough to form memories. Aburto immigrated to the US when she was three years old. 

But if returning to Mexico is the only viable option, Borjón said, the consulate is prepared to discuss what that looks like. Some, like Aburto, have children who are naturalized US citizens. What would happen to the child if they stayed in the US? Who takes care of family assets? These are all questions the consulate is prepared to answer. 

Borjón reminds current DACA recipients—and their employers—that until their grant expires, nothing changes. 

“If you have DACA, your employer should not be pressing you to renew, or provide renewal. That is not acceptable,” Borjón said. “They have the right, regardless of the program, if their worker permit is valid, they should not feel any harassment from employers at all. It is valid until the end of that permit.” 

But after that expiration date, anything goes. Borjón hopes DACA recipients don’t lose their jobs along with their protective status, but it is entirely possible. 

Anything is possible, really, after March 5. 

About Shannon Sollitt

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