With DACA in Limbo, Dreamers Face Increased Costs and More Uncertainty

Should honest taxpayer subsidize the cost of keeping track of people here illegally?  Is it the role of government to make it easy on those who violate our laws?  One reason we have so many homeless and folks living in slums is because those here illegally are driving up the cost of housing, squeezing out the honest poor and those who live by the rules.

“Salinas, who is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, has maintained her legal status in the United States for the past eight years. Although it is not a permanent solution, DACA provides about 678,000 undocumented youth a work permit and protection from deportation.

Now the Trump administration is planning to add to the burden of young DACA recipients like Salinas by raising the renewal fees they pay every two years.

Currently the cost of the biennial renewals is $495. But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has proposed increasing the fee to $765, a 55 percent hike. In addition, under the proposal, the fee for naturalization would increase 83%, from $640 to $1,170.”

Even at the new rates it does not cover the costs of administration, education, health care and mire taken by those who have violated our laws.  They need to be grateful our nation is so supportive of them.

With DACA in Limbo, Dreamers Face Increased Costs and More Uncertainty

By Jacqueline García | La Opinión, CalMatters, Times of San Diego,  2/15/20  

Betzabeth Salinas, 30, is a single mother who’s about to obtain her master’s degree in social work at Cal State Long Beach. She works 15 hours a week as a counselor in a nonprofit organization in East Los Angeles and participates in an internship 20 hours a week.

 “It’s very difficult because my daughter’s dad helps me, but only sometimes and it’s not enough,” said Salinas, who shares an apartment with her mother and two sisters in south Los Angeles.

“Sometimes I feel guilty for not being able to spend more time with my daughter because I am very busy studying and working, but I think she understands the sacrifice I’m making is for both of us,” she added.

Salinas, who is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, has maintained her legal status in the United States for the past eight years. Although it is not a permanent solution, DACA provides about 678,000 undocumented youth a work permit and protection from deportation.

Now the Trump administration is planning to add to the burden of young DACA recipients like Salinas by raising the renewal fees they pay every two years.

Currently the cost of the biennial renewals is $495. But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has proposed increasing the fee to $765, a 55 percent hike. In addition, under the proposal, the fee for naturalization would increase 83%, from $640 to $1,170.

The higher DACA fees worry young recipients, like Salinas, who often are low-income and already live with anxiety and uncertainty every time their renewal date approaches.

Last month, a group of six U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), opposed the fee increases, calling it part of the Trump administration’s “unabashed and poorly-disguised anti-immigrant agenda.”

“USCIS’s efforts to limit the availability of fee waivers while increasing fees to, among other things, naturalize, seek asylum, or remain in the only country they know to be home, are a clear and concerted effort to harm low-income individuals, vulnerable populations, and communities of color,” they wrote in a letter sent to the immigration department.

Trump administration officials say that they conducted a comprehensive review of the fees and determined that they must be increased because “the current fees do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services.”

Feb. 10 was the last day for the public to participate in the rulemaking related to DACA by submitting comments, said Leslie Quiroz, spokesperson with the agency.

“After the public comment period closes, USCIS will conduct a review and analysis of comments and will then issue a final rule,” she said. “The date of the final rule has not been determined.”

Salinas already has renewed her DACA three times, at a cost of $1,485. She said she has been fortunate to find non-profit groups that paid the fees.

“The first two times CHIRLA [the Coalition for Immigrant Human Rights in Los Angeles] paid for my renewal,” said the native of Puebla, Mexico. “And this last time the Dream Center from Cal State Long Beach provided the funds, and I went to USC to get help to fill out my renewal a legal clinic.”

Salinas’ two younger sisters also are DACA recipients and college students.

In California alone, almost half a million people live in households with 188,000 DACA recipients, according to the Center for American Progress. Also, DACA recipients in California are parents of 73,000 children born in the United States.

Research has shown that DACA recipients contribute to the U.S. economy. They own almost 11,000 homes and pay $184.4 million in mortgage payments and $901.9 million in rental payments each year, according to the Center for American Progress report. Nationwide, DACA recipients pay $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in annual rental payments. Their households pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes.

Future in Limbo

Jairo Barba, 25, is another young immigrant who has been in the DACA program since 2012. Earlier this year, Barba managed to send in his DACA renewal and like Salinas, he was able to obtain help from his university paying the fee. His DACA expires in October.

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But he is struggling financially. He is seeking his master’s degree in Spanish at San Francisco State University and although he’s expected to graduate in the spring, his last semester is in jeopardy. Tuition costs $4,370 and he has no job and did not qualify for financial aid.

“If I don’t pay my tuition fees before Feb. 14, I will not be able to attend school and I will lose this semester,” said Barba, who was born in Jalisco, Mexico and arrived in the U.S. at the age of 12.

After losing his job at the end of last year, Barba ran out of savings, and his last resource, under his precarious situation, has been to create a GoFundMe page to raise his tuition.

Barba refuses to give up. He said he wants to prove to other young undocumented students that no matter how difficult the situation may seem, they always should fight for higher education.

Barba said he has been fortunate in the past and had good jobs that allowed him to pay for his housing, transportation and education. However, this disqualified him from obtaining financial assistance from the California Dream Act.

“My taxes from the previous two years did not consider me as a low-income person, although now I am,” said Barba.

Audrey Dow, senior vice president of Campaign for College Opportunity and co-author of the recent report “In their Voices; Undocumented in California Public Colleges and Universities,” said it is common to see undocumented students begin their university studies but not finish them because of lack of money. Many do not qualify for college financial aid and are forced to leave school to get a job.

“After the cost of registration, the number one challenge for students is the fear of the unknown. They think of what their future will be in this country. Many live with fear of deportation,” said Dow. “They have to deal with that trauma and many schools don’t offer the mental health assistance they need.”

University expenses that accrue, including tuition, transportation, housing, textbooks and other school supplies, also cause stress to young students, he added.

“We must ensure that the financial aid that comes to California students is also for students without documents,” Dow said. “As for the legislature, we must expand legal services for undocumented students. They want to feel safe going to trusted locations for their legal assistance.”

Waiting for Court Ruling on DACA

Salinas and Barba not only worry about the higher fees but also fear that the DACA program, initiated by President Barack Obama, will disappear under Trump.

“I woke up and watched a video that said President Trump is going to cancel DACA and that all of those protected under the program are at risk of being deported,” Barba said. “And of course, I was very worried.”

Barba is referring to the announcement by the Trump administration in 2017. Before it took effect, the proposal was halted in the courts and the Supreme Court is now expected to make a decision.

On Nov. 12, 2019, before the Supreme Court was about to hear arguments on whether or not to rescind DACA, Trump stated in a tweet that many DACA recipients are “no longer very young and far from ‘angels’.”

He added that if the Supreme Court overturns DACA, his administration will make a deal with the Democrats to have these Dreamers stay in the United States. However, DACA recipients remain skeptical.

Immigration lawyer Alma Rosa Nieto said a decision is expected by June but it is very difficult to know how the justices will vote. “Two were appointed by President Trump and although we already know how they may vote, they may change [their vote]. Anything can happen,” she said.

Jacqueline García is a reporter with La Opinión. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration between CalMatters and other newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. END DACA NOW!!!! IF these people want to be here, let them apply for legal status and a work permit.. Our tax dollars need to be put to much better use, like taking care of our homeless… our vets,… our infrastructure… These DACA people, many of them, are above legal age.. WHY have they done NOTHING to apply for legal status? Because they want the free benefits they can TAKE from our country…. END IT!!!!
    I’M SICK OF ILLEGAL ALIENS BEING HELD ABOVE OUR LAWS, ABOVE THE CITIZENS AND WE SHOULD NOT BE SPENDING ONE DIME TO TAKE CARE OF ANY OF THEM!!!!!!!

  2. Hummm, you think that the requirement to enter the USA you have a sponsor or a job would help?

    They want welfare and then vote against supporters of the Constitution and the Nation as a whole.

    DACA people perhaps if you stopped trying to destroy the Constitution, and our National Borders you just might have a better reception. If you are illegal and getting aid how about a contract to pay back at least half?

  3. The Captive says

    DACA I WANT TO ERASE IT dac-da–d–() just like that but I can’t and the Democrats keep making it the con to get their votes as well. I too am SICK OF IT — THE WALL is being built because we do not want ILLEGALS and dacas are illegal-
    You know Really??? is right (even the suggestion at the end.)

  4. The article points out they pay 5.7 billion in taxes. Which sounds like a lot until you realize in 2019 federal taxes paid were 3.5 Trillion. What they pay is a drop in the bucket.

  5. I say if one is here in our country without permission to be here, they should be deported. If one wishes to come here, they should go through established procedures and apply to be considered. If what they have to offer is acceptable, then perhaps they will be invited in. They must fend for themselves or be supported by a sponsor; no welfare or other “feeding at the trough”. No family reunification considerations. If family reunification is a goal, then go back and reunify with family.

  6. I feel that these people have benefited from living in America.

    So, consider yourself lucky and take what was given to you and go back to have a successful life in YOUR own country.

    The facts, just the facts. The Dems are all about feelings! PC and all the rest. Forget it.
    We have to draw the line and we have already done it with the wall.

    Americans have given enough and suffered enough and spent enough.

    We need the wall completed, illegal Sanctuary cities/states …and E-Verify. DONE.

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