No longer young, the “dreamers” are anxiously watching a legal challenge

LOS ANGELES (AP) – When Juliana Macedo do Nascimento signed up for an Obama-era program to protect immigrants who came to the country as young children from deportation, she enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles, switching positions of work in domestic care, the child. car care, repair and construction company.

Now, a decade later, at 36, graduate school at Princeton University is behind her and she works in Washington as the deputy director of advocacy for United We Dream, a national group.

“Dreamers” like Macedo do Nascimento, a symbol of immigrant youth, are increasingly relaxing in middle age as eligibility requirements have been frozen since 2012, when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was introduced.

The oldest recipients were in their early 30s when DACA began and are in their 40s today. At the same time, fewer people turning 16 can satisfy the requirement to be continuously in the United States since June 2007.

The average age of a DACA recipient was 28.2 in March, up from 23.8 in September 2017, according to the Immigration Policy Institute. About 40 percent are 30 or older, according to fwd.us, a DACA advocacy group.

With fewer eligible and new enrollments closed since July 2021 by court order, the number of DACA recipients dropped to just over 600,000 at the end of March, according to government data.

Beneficiaries became homeowners and married. Many have US citizen children.

“DACA is not for young people,” Macedo do Nascimento said. “They’re not even eligible for it anymore. We’re well into middle age.”

Born out of President Barack Obama’s frustration over Congress’s failure to reach a deal on immigration reform, DACA was meant to be a temporary fix, and many saw it as flawed from the start. Immigration advocates were disappointed that the policy did not include a path to citizenship and warned that requiring the program to be renewed every two years would leave many feeling left out. Opponents, including many Republicans, saw the policy as a legal overreach on Obama’s part and criticized it as rewarding people who had not followed immigration law.

In a move intended to insulate DACA from legal challenge, the Biden administration released a 453-page rule on Aug. 24 that sticks closely to DACA as it was introduced in 2012. It codified DACA as a regulation, subjecting it to possible changes after extensive public comment. .

DACA advocates welcomed the regulation, but were disappointed that the age eligibility remained unchanged.

The rule was “a missed opportunity,” said Karen Tumlin, an attorney and director of the Justice Action Center. DACA, he said, was “locked in time, like a fossil preserved in amber.”

The administration weighed expanding the eligibility age but decided against it, said Ur Jadu, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the program.

“The president said to us, ‘How do we preserve and fortify DACA? How do we ensure the safety of the program and how can we do it better?’ and that was the determination that was made after a lot of thought and careful consideration,” Jaddou said Monday in Los Angeles.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing DACA appeals from Texas and eight other states, asked both sides to explain how the new rule affects the program’s legal status.

Texas, in a court filing Thursday, said the rule cannot save DACA. The states admitted it is similar to the 2012 memo that created the program, but that it “shares many of the same flaws.”

The executive branch has “neither the authority to decide the major issues facing DACA, nor the authority to provide substantive immigration benefits,” the states wrote.

The Justice Department argued that the new rule — “substantially identical” to the original program — renders moot the argument that the administration failed to follow federal rulemaking procedures.

DACA has been closed to new enrollees since July 2021 while the case is concluded in the New Orleans-based appeals court, but two-year renewals are allowed.

The uncertainty surrounding DACA has caused anxiety and frustration among elderly recipients.

Pamela Tsomba, 32, arrived with her family from Peru at the age of 11 and settled in New Jersey. She worries about losing her job and mortgage payments if DACA is ruled illegal. She put off becoming a mother because she doesn’t know if she can stay in the US and doesn’t want to be a “burden” on her children.

“We’re people with lives and plans, and we really want to make sure we can feel safe,” said Chomba, director of state immigration campaigns for fwd.us.

Macedo do Nascimento was 14 when she arrived with her family from Brazil in 2001. She hasn’t seen a brother who returned to Brazil shortly before DACA was announced in 10 years. International travel under DACA is extremely limited.

Like Biden and many DACA supporters, he believes legislation is the answer.

“Congress is the final resort here,” he said. “(Both sides) keep passing the ball to each other.

The uncertainty has taken its toll on her, the eldest of three siblings.

“The fear of deportation is back,” said Macedo do Nascimento, because “you never know when this policy will end.”

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Sainz reported from Memphis, Tennessee.

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