Eligible DACA, DAPA Participants Wait for Executive Action to Go into Effect
March 27, 2015 | Chicago, IL
Erie House immigration attorney Viviana Mendez speaks at a press conference earlier this year in support of the president's executive action.
When President Obama announced an executive action last fall to provide temporary relief to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, immigration agencies and advocates applauded it as a positive step toward comprehensive reform.
Four months later, they’re still waiting for that step to take place.
The president’s actions call for an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as the creation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) provision. But last month, a Texas judge issued an order that temporarily blocks the implementation of the DAPA and expanded DACA programs.
“Everyone has been extremely disappointed,” says Jane Lombardi, Citizenship & Immigration Program Coordinator at Erie Neighborhood House. “It’s very disillusioning for us as staff, but more so for the community we serve: They’re still waiting in limbo—without work authorization, still in fear of deportation even if they do qualify for relief under [the president’s] executive action.”
In spite of the injunction, Lombardi and her colleagues have continued working with members of the community who could potentially benefit from DACA or DAPA.
“We have been providing legal consultations for those who would be eligible and giving them a list of steps and documents to start preparing now,” explains Lombardi, whose program is recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals and assists approximately 1,600 individuals each year with help ranging from immigration legal consultations and services to citizenship workshops and classes.
Lombardi describes the current delay as a “bump in the road.” Acknowledging that it may take a while longer until the programs go into effect, she nevertheless remains hopeful the president’s actions will be upheld in court.
“We are really trying to rally around the community and make sure people know that they should still continue preparing their documents,” she says. “Although [the Texas court ruling] has put a hold on things, we’re all optimistic that eventually these programs will go into effect.”
When they are enacted, the American Immigration Council (AIC) anticipates that the DAPA and expanded DACA programs will strengthen the U.S. economy.
In December 2014, the AIC reported that the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates the president’s actions will contribute to the nation’s GDP by as much as 0.9 percent, or $210 billion, over the next decade. It also indicated that payroll tax revenue could increase by $2.9 billion in the first year of implementation, and up to $21.2 billion over the next five years, according to the Center for American Progress.
Additionally, research suggests that the DACA and DAPA programs will have little to no impact on employment for native-born laborers; in fact, the CEA believes they will actually raise the average wage of U.S.-born workers by 0.3 percent over the next decade.
But the reach of the programs will go far beyond dollars and cents.
Since arriving at Erie House in March of last year, Lombardi has witnessed the trauma families experience because of deportations firsthand. She believes the president’s executive actions will go a long way toward providing more stability to immigrant families her office serves.
“It means peace of mind,” says Lombardi. “It means safety and a feeling of relief, knowing they are able to stay with their families—especially those with children who are here as citizens or legal permanent residents.”