Trump’s DACA program decision sparks uncertainty

A protester chants in support of UC Berkeley's undocumented students from a balcony of UC Berkeley's Sproul Hall on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 in Berkeley, Calif. (Rachael Garner/Senior Staff)
Rachael Garner/Senior Staff
A protester chants in support of UC Berkeley's undocumented students from a balcony of UC Berkeley's Sproul Hall on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 in Berkeley, Calif. (Rachael Garner/Senior Staff)

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The Trump Administration announced Thursday it will maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, creating an air of uncertainty for some members of the undocumented community.

DACA is a federal program which protects eligible immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. This announcement is a reversal of President Trump’s declared intentions to end DACA during his presidential campaign.

Meng So, director of the campus’s Undocumented Student Program, or USP, said the Trump administration’s announcement was not a major victory, calling the decision “fool’s gold.” So added that Trump has already promised during his presidential campaign to enforce “mass deportation” of undocumented immigrants and to build a southern border wall.

“This announcement didn’t do much for us — students are still worried (and) still scared,” So said. “The larger fight and the larger (desired) outcome is comprehensive immigration reform.”

DACA is a discretionary program that can be discontinued under the Trump administration at any time, according to USP’s website. The website warns prospective applicants for DACA with recent criminal histories not to apply as it may make them “a priority for removal” and “provide the government with the information” for potential deportation proceedings.

Lily Woo, a refugee rights advocate for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and a paralegal for the EBSC DACA program, said she and her supervisors believe eligible immigrants should continue to apply for DACA, but stressed caution at the program’s uncertainty.

“Until (Trump) says otherwise, (DACA is) still intact, but he’s been so anti-immigrant and xenophobic, (so there is) a lot of uncertainty,” Woo said.

UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement released by her office Friday she welcomed the reports of the Trump administration’s decision to maintain DACA, adding that “this common sense approach to immigration enforcement” will allow DACA recipients to “continue to contribute their talents and vision to the United States.”

Woo expressed skepticism toward Napolitano’s statement on DACA, citing Napolitano’s previous experience as the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

“I‘m not really trusting of the UC system,” Woo said. “Any sort of statements of support (Napolitano) makes to the undocumented people is just lip service.”

Some noted that DACA has also been critiqued by the undocumented community because not all undocumented persons are eligible to qualify for DACA.

University of California Student Association Board member Clara Maya said DACA has been criticized for helping only “a small portion” of undocumented persons and advocates have argued for the expansion of DACA to protect more people.

So added that DACA can create “a narrative of who’s deserving and who’s not deserving” of protection.

Woo said she has been covered under DACA since 2012 and the program has provided her “a lot of relief,” but has mixed feelings about DACA.

“Our feelings on DACA, in general, has been that it’s very beneficial,” Woo said,(However), it only helps a certain few. The narrative of DACA (is that DACA) comes to this community of undocumented students who deserve the chance to succeed in our country. But then this creates this separation between good immigrants and bad immigrants.”

Contact Robin Hyun at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @robinnhyun.