“I am here today because the protection and dignity I gained with DACA changed my life,” said Yadira Ramirez, a small-business owner, wife and mother of three.
Ramirez and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima participated in a conference call with Johana Bencomo of New Mexico Comunidades en Accion y de Fe, or CAFe, a Las Cruces-based organization.
Last month, President Donald Trump announced he would phase out the program and urged Congress to pass legislation to protect DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers.
“When Trump killed the DACA program, my family relived the pain of once again being forced into the shadows,” Ramirez said.
She’s among an estimated 7,000 young undocumented immigrants living in New Mexico who have protection from deportation and qualify for work permits under DACA, created in an executive action by President Obama in 2012.
When the Trump administration announced the phaseout of DACA on Sept. 5, it gave current recipients 30 days to submit their renewal applications.
Those whose status expires on or before March 5, 2018, must renew by today, according to a notice by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Immigrant advocacy groups nationwide have been scrambling to help people submit their paperwork by the deadline.
CAFe held two legal clinics Friday and Saturday to help people with renewal applications.
“One out of five Dreamers live in border communities,” Bencomo said.
Her organization also helped raise money to help cover the $495 renewal fee for 10 applicants in southern New Mexico. Many of those who qualify are students.
Miyagishima said he supports efforts to help the young immigrants stay in the country.
“My ultimate goal would be that any child or adult, regardless of where they live, their nationality or their economic ability, has the opportunity to receive an education that would allow them the opportunity to sustain their well-being,” Miyagishima said.
Ramirez arrived in the U.S. with her mother from Mexico when she was 9 years old and grew up in Las Cruces. When her mother was deported, she went to live with her aunt at age 13. She dropped out of school to work and help support her family by cleaning houses. She later earned a GED diploma and started a tile business with her husband. They have three U.S.-born children.
“I no longer have to fear when I take my kids to school or the doctor that I could be detained,” she said.
That could all end unless Congress acts to create new protections for DACA recipients.
There is bipartisan support for the Dreamers, but some lawmakers want any long-term protection from deportation to be part of a larger border security bill. Immigrant advocates are urging New Mexico’s lawmakers to work for a “clean” DACA bill that isn’t tied to construction of a border wall or other border security measures.
“It is unconscionable that Congress will continue to use ‘Dreamers’ as a bargaining chip to further militarize southern border communities,” Bencomo said.