By Griselda Nevarez
Tuesday, May 19th was supposed to be the day when undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents could begin applying for temporary deportation relief and work authorization under a new deferred action program, but instead there will be rallies across the country denouncing a ruling that temporarily blocked the program.
“Millions of immigrants had hoped that today would be the day they could come out of the shadows and put the fear of deportation behind them,” said labor leader Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of SEIU International. “That’s not happening now.”
President Barack Obama announced the federal program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, in November as part of his executive actions on immigration. But the program was put on hold after a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction in February, leaving many potential applicants in limbo.
Saenz said there’s “disappointment” among many immigrants who were ready to apply for DAPA. That includes Ehiracenia Vazquez, a 30-year-old mother of two U.S. citizen children who lives in Texas.
“I have all my documents ready to apply,” Vazquez said. “I have personal documents, like my birth certificate and my passport. I have documents that prove I’ve been here for more than 10 years. I also have the documents of my children, like their birth certificates and passports, and receipts to prove I paid property taxes on the trailer home where we used to live.”
Vazquez, a native of Mexico who has been living in Texas for 12 years, is among the nearly 4 million undocumented immigrants who meet all the requirements of the DAPA program. She is also one of the dozens of immigration advocates who will march to Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s residence in Austin on Tuesday to push back against the lawsuit he filed in December, which led to the immigration executive actions being put on hold.
The march is among the more than 30 events that will be held across the country as part of a national day of action to push for the implementation of DAPA.
Vazquez said she wants Abbott to meet with her and other potential DAPA beneficiaries so that he can hear their stories and “know what we’re facing as undocumented people.”
Oscar Hernandez, lead field organizer of United We Dream’s Own the Dream program, will also attend the march. The 27-year-old Dreamer came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 2 years old. He’s one of the thousands of young immigrants who have been granted deportation reprieve and a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Obama announced in 2012.
Hernandez said one of the purposes of the march is to challenge Abbott’s argument that Texas would be irreparably harmed by Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which also include expanding the DACA program. He said the DACA program has allowed undocumented youth to work and contribute to the economy, and is a good indicator of how the DAPA program would work.
“Our intention is to show that DACA is working right now and that we know DAPA and the expansion of DACA will also work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Saenz said the day of action is also meant to warn Republicans about the consequences they could face in the 2016 election if they oppose Obama’s immigration actions. Last week 113 Republicans, including several presidential candidates, signed onto an amicus brief supporting the lawsuit against Obama’s immigration actions.
“Republicans are making it very clear that there is no room for Latinos and immigrant families under their tent,” said Saenz.