In the wake of the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. President, activists and advocates urged members of the immigrant community to make preparations ahead of Trump’s inauguration.
According to advocates, many in the immigrant community have expressed concern and even panic after Trump had won the election, particularly due to Trump’s remarks regarding immigration throughout his campaign. Trump has said he would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, deport undocumented individuals with criminal records, increase vetting of those entering the U.S., and limit funding to sanctuary cities throughout the country which offer protection from prosecution to undocumented immigrants, among other remarks.
President-elect Trump has also said during his campaign that he would cancel President Obama’s executive order which established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA allows eligible undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children to receive two-year work permits and temporary exemption from deportation. Since DACA was established in 2012, over 1.5 million individuals have submitted requests to receive DACA benefits as of June 2016, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
If Trump cancels DACA, it is unclear what kind of effect it would have to current DACA recipients, and when exactly during his term he would cancel the executive order.
“At the end of the day, we don’t know specifically what he will do,” Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy of the National Immigrant Law Center, said in a press call on Thursday. “He’s thrown out a lot of ideas, but it’s not clear that they are practically or even politically feasible, or which ones he will prioritize.”
There are ways the immigrant community can prepare themselves before Trump becomes inaugurated as president however, advocates said.
First, individuals can prepare by knowing and remembering their rights, Essaheb said, including the right to ask border patrol officers to show ID, and the right to call an attorney. Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, added that individuals have the right to remain silent, and the right to ask for a warrant when officers want to come in and search their homes.
“Donald Trump cannot take away the Constitution,” said Essaheb. “He cannot take away your rights.”
Kinoshita also encouraged individuals to prepare assuming the “worst case scenario” that Trump would take away DACA soon after his inauguration in January. In that case, those who wanted to apply for DACA now should not assume that they will be able to receive it, as requests take several months to approve. Requests for DACA submitted today would not be processed until February or March, and “may result in no benefit and expose [individuals] to DHS,” the ILRC stated.
Meanwhile, those who are current recipients of DACA but need to renew have a greater possibility of having renewed permits before Trump is inaugurated, as it takes about 8 weeks for renewal requests to be processed. Those who seek to renew should know that the filing fee increases to $495 on December 23.
Undocumented individuals should also seek legal professionals to see if they are eligible for protections or programs other than DACA, Kinoshita added. There are certain state-wide protections for immigrants in several states, such as California’s AB 60 which allows undocumented individuals to receive driver’s licenses.
“We have seen that as many as 15 percent or more of DACA recipients are eligible for something more permanent than DACA,” said Kinoshita.