“The obvious reality is our country is not going to round up and deport 800,000 people who in the past were brought here as children, grew up here, have committed no crimes, and now have relied in good faith on the Obama administration’s false but enticing promises. Congress needs to enact immigration law that humanely and responsibly fixes this problem once and for all. There is no substitute for addressing this matter through the lawmaking process the Constitution establishes.” — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
“Congress must use legal, legislative avenues to figure out how to help these young people, so long as they follow our laws. My priorities on this issue have always been, and will remain, to secure the border and help develop a workable visa for our farmers and producers back home. We must do right by them, by these young people and the safety of the American public.” — Congressman Roger Marshall
On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced the end of a program that allowed some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children to delay deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, instituted by President Barack Obama in 2012, was rescinded, but President Trump and others — including Kansas lawmakers — urged Congress to enact laws to protect those hurt by the action.
Kansas and several other states had set Tuesday as the deadline for the president to end DACA or see it challenged in court. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt had defended his position, stating, “Whatever one’s personal policy views are regarding immigration reform, the legal authority to make changes to the country’s immigration law rests with Congress, not the president and the executive branch.”
On Tuesday, Schmidt and Congressman Roger Marshall issued statements that expressed support for immigrants, but only if the support comes from Congress.
Congressman Roger Marshall
“The young people covered by DACA are not just a statistic on a DHS report. These are friends of my children, brothers and sisters of babies I’ve delivered, and members of my community. They didn’t put themselves in this position, and my heart goes out to them,” Marshall said.
“The United States is in this position due to the unilateral approach the previous administration took toward enacting DACA,” Marshall continued. “It is because of that one-sided approach that we now have uncertainty and inconsistency throughout the entire immigration system. Consistency should be the hallmark of American governance.
“Our resources, especially as they pertain to deportation, must remain focused on getting rid of bad people who present a danger to the American citizen – not a young person who is here simply due to circumstance. To date, 787,000 young people have legally registered with the U.S. government, and showed their willingness to follow our laws. We cannot allow that information to now be used against them in reverse order.
“We are having these conversations now in Congress. Just a month ago, a Democrat colleague of mine and I got a bipartisan group of freshmen members of Congress in a room to discuss what we can do to move forward on bipartisan, thoughtful solutions to the crises many communities and families are now facing.
“Congress must use legal, legislative avenues to figure out how to help these young people, so long as they follow our laws. My priorities on this issue have always been, and will remain, to secure the border and help develop a workable visa for our farmers and producers back home. We must do right by them, by these young people and the safety of the American public.”
Support for DACA
Great Bend attorney Robert Feldt, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, had hoped DACA would continue.
“The program has benefitted hundreds of bright people in our community. It has given them hope and the opportunity to contribute and participate in the life of our community,” Feldt told the Great Bend Tribune last week.
“There is nothing offered in the way of a substitute remedy,” he continued. “If DACA is killed, there is nothing to take its place.”
Kansas Interfaith Action, a statewide, faith-based advocacy organization headquartered in Lawrence, issued a statement condemning Tuesday’s action.
“The decision to dismantle the DACA program is an affront to basic human decency,” said Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of KIFA. “The major religious traditions teach us to welcome the stranger and to treat people fairly. This decision runs directly counter to those teachings. It harms not only the people directly involved, but frankly, the very soul of our nation.”
DACA allowed law-abiding residents to live and work without fear of arrest or deportation, supporters said. To be eligible, applicants had to have completed high school or gotten a GED, been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or currently be enrolled in school.
“They also have to have a clean criminal record of no felonies and no more than three misdemeanors, meaning that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s characterization of Dreamers as ‘gang bangers’ has no basis in fact,” Rieber said.
“Some of my clients came here when they were 2 months old,” Feldt said. “They are going to school, participating in sports — some don’t even know they’re undocumented. When they turn 15 and they want a driver’s license, suddenly they hit a wall.
“These are by and large good kids,” Feldt said. “Some are outstanding students. They can contribute to the general welfare of our community and nation. The point here is that the child had no say in the matter. The child is innocent.”
The Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a statewide nonprofit legal organization, issued a post on Facebook urging followers to ask Schmidt “how he plans to protect these young people now that Trump has followed his advice.”
Schmidt’s statement on Tuesday stressed that changes to federal immigration policy must have the approval of Congress.
“As unilaterally declared by President Obama, DACA always has been a cruel illusion. No president has authority to keep the promises the Obama administration made to the Dreamers; President Obama said so himself more than two dozen times,” Schmidt stated.
“The Trump administration’s actions today return the issue to the only place constitutionally empowered to resolve it: The United States Congress. Congress has had more than five years to address this issue and has done nothing, but perhaps having a legal deadline, after which neither the president nor the courts will continue to turn a blind eye to unlawful executive actions, can motivate Congress to act.
“The obvious reality is our country is not going to round up and deport 800,000 people who in the past were brought here as children, grew up here, have committed no crimes, and now have relied in good faith on the Obama administration’s false but enticing promises. Congress needs to enact immigration law that humanely and responsibly fixes this problem once and for all. There is no substitute for addressing this matter through the lawmaking process the Constitution establishes.”
Closer to home
As of March 1, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had approved 6,803 first-time DACA applications for those living in Kansas, according to a department report cited in the Topeka Capitol-Journal.
Barton County families with ties to Mexico have been talking about changes in immigration enforcement since Trump’s election. Back in March, Immanuel United Church of Christ in Ellinwood quietly spread the word that it would bring an immigration law expert in for a one-day workshop. Wichita attorney Marcos Montemayor advised attendees of their rights and responsibilities, including what to do if they are stopped for questioning and what to do if immigration agents come to their home or if they are taken into custody.
“Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights,” Montemayor said. “Exercise those rights.”
Feldt said he also speaks to groups, including the local Migrant Parent Advisory Council.
MPAC meets at 9:30 a.m. each Wednesday at Great Bend USD 428’s Parent Teacher Resource Center, located at the southwest corner of Washington Early Education Center at 12th and Washington. A child playgroup is provided during MPAC meetings in cooperation with Parents As Teachers and the PTR Center. According to the USD 428 website, 20 to 40 parents regularly attend Great Bend MPAC meetings.
While ending DACA may affect local residents, Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton said there’s no way to know how Tuesday’s action may affect local schools.
“We do not have any information or request any information when enrolling students concerning their immigration status,” Thexton said. “According to Kansas compulsory attendance statutes, we are required to enroll and educate all students from age 7-18. I am not sure we have any way of knowing which students would fall under DACA and if the change in legislation would even affect public school enrollment.”