Brooklyn Law School holds town hall on DACA and immigrants’ rights
Brooklyn Law School hosted a town hall meeting in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday where a group of professors and one current student discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the legal arguments supporting it and what alternatives DACA recipients have.
Professors Stacy Caplow, Maryellen Fullerton, Susan Hazeldean and Dan Smulian led the discussion with the student, who is currently in her second year, and whose name is being withheld for her protection. While the professors discussed aspects of the law, it was the student’s story that grabbed the attention of everyone at the meeting.
“It wasn’t until my sophomore year [at Brooklyn Technical High School] that my status began to affect me, because that’s when I had to start internships to be able to get into college,” the second-year BLS student, and current DACA recipient, said. “I worked at Mount Sinai, but I couldn’t get paid because I had no Social Security number. It was around that time that it hit me that there was no chance of going to college and getting a scholarship.”
It didn’t matter that this student was a member of the student government at Brooklyn Tech, was active in many social clubs and had successfully passed advanced placement (AP) chemistry, AP biology and AP calculus. She was unable to get loans and was only able to enroll at Brooklyn College with the help of family members and two jobs.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’m stuck,’” she said. “Then when Obama announced DACA, suddenly there were opportunities that I didn’t have before.”
As soon as DACA was announced, she helped her sister and brother apply. That’s when she also began to prepare for law school.
“Obama introduced Deferred Action, and I thought it had to be a joke. But it ended up being a turning point for us,” the BLS student said. “I helped my sister, my brother. There were people in the community that I was able to help.”
There are approximately 800,000 people currently enrolled in DACA, which grants recipients two years to stay in the country before they have to re-apply. Recipients who can renew before March 5, 2018 should be granted another two-year stay, but those who cannot re-apply by that time will lose their DACA status, according to the current procedure.
There are roughly 20 states currently suing on behalf of their resident DACA recipients. The University of California, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the city of San Jose and six students have also brought lawsuits against the federal government.
There are currently two lawsuits being held in Brooklyn in front of U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis brought by various groups, including Make the Road and the National Immigration Law Center.
NAACP is making a race discrimination claim, and others are making equal protection claims based on national origin and the fact that 78 percent of DACA recipients are of Mexican origin. The other big claims are due process claims, which is what most of the students are making.
“The due process claims -— one is that it is fundamentally unfair to take this information from people and then use it against them,” Fullerton said. “Another due process claim is that there wasn’t enough notice for an opportunity to be heard before the decision memo was issued.”
Other parties are making the claim that “it was an arbitrary and capricious decision and that there wasn’t notice of kind given under the terms of the Administrative Procedure Act,” Fullerton explained. “These suits have all been filed within the last two weeks.”
Hazeldean laid out what DACA recipients can do, like consulting an immigration attorney to check for other paths to citizenship, but suggested that many will be forced to stay within the country illegally.
BLS has provided and will continue to provide opportunities to volunteer and work for its students to get involved. This Friday, a group of students are expected to volunteer with various Catholic charities to help people to renew their DACA applications.
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