February 18, 2015 — At LSA we are keeping a close eye on the advances of DACA and DAPA, immigration policies that protect undocumented youth and parents living, going to school, and working in the U.S. “Today, we celebrate…that these respected members of our community can come out of the shadows, cast off the mantle of fear, and gain access to the possibility of attaining legal work,” said LSA Executive Director Traci Lester in a policy statement released in December. As the Deferred Action programs evolve, our Advocacy team has been working to keep the community informed and to create new opportunities for the families we serve.
A Temporary Delay
The latest immigration policy news is that the expansion of DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – which would have protected a wider range of individuals from deportation, has been suspended temporarily, due to a Texas federal court ruling. The expansion was originally planned to take effect today, February 18th. This suspension only applies to the expansion of DACA; the existing DACA program is still open to those who are eligible.
DACA was established in 2012 to protect undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children from deportation. LSA immediately saw the benefit for the largely immigrant population we serve. Individuals eligible for DACA would finally enjoy greater work opportunities and other freedoms which their status did not previously allow.
Since 2013, LSA has participated in a citywide initiative to find NYC’s “hard to reach” immigrant youth who might be eligible for the DACA program. Now in our second year with the initiative, we have served roughly 500 clients through outreach workshops, screenings and direct referrals to legal and education services.
Hope for Parents
The policy that will have the biggest impact on the families we serve is DAPA – Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program. DAPA grants protection from deportation to parents of U.S. citizens. Because of our special focus on children and families, we serve many parents with young children born in the U.S., many of whom will potentially qualify.
“DAPA is incredibly exciting,” said Lucia Russett, Director of LSA’s Advocacy and Emergency Food Pantry program. “It is a concrete benefit for our families who have been working off the books and in the shadows. DAPA will enable them to work legally and without fear of deportation.”
While DAPA was expected to go into effect in May 2015, it may also be impacted by the court injunction. Nonetheless, in anticipation of the program’s eventual roll-out, LSA’s Advocacy team has conducted workshops to inform staff and clients about the program. We are helping clients prepare for the application process, and are already starting to make referrals to the Legal Aid Society.
“It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for years,” said Russett.