By Diana Sanchez
Elm Staff Writer
What does it mean to be a Dreamer? To be waiting for a decision on DACA?
The League of Women’s Voters held a panel discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 7 to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to show the reality of what it means to be a DACA recipient. They discussed the long process of receiving a visa and the current political debate that is happening on Capitol Hill on the future of DACA.
Estela Ramirez, assistant director of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, is a DACA recipient herself and expressed what it feels like to be in limbo.
“We have nowhere to go, we are in the middle of this battle and we can’t move, so we just go minute-by-minute,” she said.
When the Donald Trump administration announced that they were going to rescind the DACA program on Sept. 5, 2017, it left a reported 800,000 people who are currently enrolled in the program unsure of their future.
There have been common misconceptions surrounding DACA, which the panel addressed throughout the evening. DACA does not mean legal status for recipients, nor does it offer a pathway to citizenship. Another misconception is that anyone can apply, even criminals.
In order to be protected under DACA, you must not have been convicted of a significant misdemeanor or three other minor misdemeanors.
DACA recipients pay taxes, but do not have access to welfare, disability, or social security.
Trump has since backtracked somewhat on rescinding DACA, but only gave Congress six months to reach a bipartisan resolution. As of press time Monday, no such resolution has been met and the deadline is on March 5.
The two DACA recipients on the panel expressed how, despite negative sentiment towards them from a growing nationalist population, they feel that the United States is their home.
Ivette Salarich, a court liaison and an outreach coordinator for Pro Bono of Kent and Queen Anne counties, provided a viewpoint on what the legal process is for deportation and for those who are trying to obtain a visa for a family member.
Depending on the type of relation, circumstance, and age, the visa process requires a lot of time, for some 10 years, with costs ranging from $5,000 to $16,000.
In Easton, residents have taken it upon themselves to change the climate of fear for people who are undocumented by officially becoming a “welcoming city,” according to the panel.
Unlike a sanctuary city, a welcoming city means that the local police will not assist the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if there is a warrant out for someone’s arrest.
Easton became a welcoming city after Latino students did not attend school for a whole week after there was an ICE raid, according to the panel. Children were living in fear that they would come home from school and that their parents wouldn’t be there.
Ramirez, when asked what they hope to gain out of this, said: “We don’t want to be a stranger anymore… We are here as a friend, as a neighbor, and we just want an opportunity.”