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Local officials hope Congress will pass legislation to clarify DACA students' situation

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

But Congress hasn't been able to pass any immigration reform in the past 10 years.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017 12:01 am

The Trump administration's rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program gives the U.S. Congress six months to write legislation to address the issue, but that could be a challenge for a legislative body that has wrestled with immigration reform for 10 years and accomplished nothing, an IPFW political science professor said.

On the plus side, "Congress gets motivated by deadlines," said Michael Wolf, chair of IPFW's political science department.

Others also voiced hope Congress will take some action to on the DACA issue.

"We are hopeful Congress will provide a timely solution," said Trois Hart, associate vice president for marketing at the University of Saint Francis.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend also urged Congress to act quickly to help young people in the DACA program, who aren't responsible for their parents choosing to bring them into the United States without going through proper immigration procedures.  

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday the Trump administration is rescinding the DACA program, describing it as an overreach of executive authority by former President Barack Obama. The program has helped nearly 800,000 young people — called Dreamers — who were brought into the country illegally as children by giving them a reprieve from deportation and by allowing them to work legally in the United States by applying for two-year, renewable work permits, The Associated Press reported.

Sessions announced the federal government will stop renewing DACA permits in six months, which gives the U.S. Congress time to write new laws concerning DACA participants, if they choose to do so, the Associated Press report said.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security officials said people with DACA permits whose renewals are set to expire between now and March 5, 2018, will be able to re-apply, as long as they submit their application by Oct. 5, the Associated Press report said. No permits will be revoked before their existing expiration dates, and applications already filed will be processed.

IPFW's Wolf said U.S. policies, especially when set by a president, frequently spark a lot of questioning if they don't have the firm backing of Congress. It's always better if there Congress passes legislation giving the government the authority to do something, even if the language is somewhat vague and allows the president to fill in some of the details, he added.

However, with the country heading into congressional elections in 2018 and a presidential election in 2020, those seeking re-election could be challenged on their stand on immigration and may want to avoid taking a stand on it, Wolf said.

But Wolf believes there is momentum pushing politicians to pass some form of legislation assisting Dreamers. The young people are sympathetic figures, and many are students are in the U.S. military.

Wolf believes the best approach would be for Congress to create a bipartisan group of members to draw up immigration legislation that can be voted on by both the House and Senate.

In the meantime, University of Saint Francis will continue to support the needs of any DACA students attending there, Hart said. USF doesn't ask students about their immigration status, so officials don't know how many students may be affected by the rescinding of the DACA program, she said.

The university concentrates on educating students and helping them build a brighter future, Hart said.

"We'll help them learn, we'll help them become leaders and we'll help them serve the community in which they live," she said.

The local Latinos Count organization also tries to support Latino students in their efforts to get a college education. The DACA program has been essential not only in helping young undocumented immigrants attend school, but also to hold jobs, said Steve Corona, Latinos Count executive director.

In late August, Bishop Rhoades urged people to contact their U.S. congressional representatives to encourage them to pass the Dream Act, which would give DACA participants a way to stay in the United States and a path to U.S. citizenship.

Rhoades also issued this statement Wednesday morning:

“A few weeks ago, I wrote a column expressing the church's strong support for the Dream Act of 2017. The passage of the Dream Act has even greater urgency now that the DACA program has been canceled. My heart goes out to our DACA youth and their families, who have been left unprotected from deportation and fear for their futures in the United States, their home.

"I am very saddened and disappointed in the administration's termination of the DACA program. I urge our legislators to support the Dream Act.  It is a matter not only of mercy, but of justice.

"I hope and pray that Congress will act soon to protect these young people, who were brought to the U.S. as minors and are not responsible for the violation of our nation's immigration laws.

"America is their home. They are part of our community, our churches, our schools, our workplaces and our military. May we all stand in solidarity with them during this difficult time!”

The diocese's Catholic Charities social-service organization also plans to help Dreamers.

The organization's legal services team will offer extended hours to help as many DACA participants as possible whose enrollment expires between now and March 5, said Gloria Whitcraft, local Catholic Charities executive director. 

DACA participants whose enrollment expires in the next six months have to file a renewal request by Oct. 5 for it to be considered for approval.


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