Lake County agency accepting DACA renewals

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

HACES, a nonprofit agency, has been working toward supplying social services and guidance in meeting the needs of Lake County’s diverse immigrant community.

The firestorm engulfing immigration policy at the federal level has led to conflicting directives for public- and private-sector agencies involved with certifying application processes, especially at the local level.

The Trump Administration issued a directive Sept. 5, effectively ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program citing an “overreach” by former President Barack Obama, and calling for a March 2018 end.

Earlier this month, a San Francisco federal judge further complicated the matter by ruling that the current administration acted improperly in seeking to terminate the program, and ordering the nearly 695,000 DACA beneficiaries to keep their work permits and their security from deportations, while the lawsuit challenging its validity moves through the court system.

The federal Department of Homeland Security stated it would comply with the order Jan. 13, and the same day, the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released its own statement, reading “Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance … the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded Sept. 5, 2017.”

“We’ve already started a waiting list, with people calling, when the USCIS gave the OK. But there may be wrinkles like different addresses to file the government paperwork with,” said Maria-Elena Jonas, CEO, and founder of the Hispanic American Community Education and Services. “We can’t estimate a figure count on people renewing in Lake County, because the dates are at different times. There’s a window of opportunity for another two years of renewal, now that there won’t be a stay order, until further notice.”

HACES, a nonprofit agency, has been working toward supplying social services and guidance in meeting the needs of Lake County’s diverse immigrant community. Located at 820 W. Greenwood Ave. in Waukegan, its mission focuses solely on citizenship, assistance, and programs to ease the transitions of naturalization while offering steps toward beginning the process.

Established by Obama in 2012, DACA outlines protection for children brought into the country illegally by their parents, who themselves were undocumented aliens. The original initiative, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minorities act, was not approved by congressional legislators, and DACA emerged as a compromise six years ago.

Guidelines stipulated the young adults could not have entered the country after their 16th birthday, not entered the country past the date of June 16, 2007, and not be older than 30 years of age, when the program was established and placed under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. The stay order allowing two-year permit renewals may itself be short-lived, should the administration file rebuttal litigation and win its appeal. Negotiations over immigration policies and the DACA program have not fared well.

The Trump Administration has placed the burden of immigration legislation onto congress while linking those policies to funding for a border wall separating the United States and Mexico.

“It’s not fair to people of the immigrant community,” Jonas said. “These are two different aspects of immigration and two different goals. People here already have DACA-protected status. We don’t want a wall because they are already in. The wall is to prevent new people from coming in, so I do not see the correlation between the two. Why DACA people have to wait until a wall is built makes no sense. They are using immigrants to forward their own agendas.

“We have a president who wants to build a wall. So why should people be kept waiting until his project is complete? I hope they will really take this seriously,” she said.

The U.S Census Bureau Decennial Census and American Community Survey, conducted in 2010, showed the Latino population in Lake County at 19.8 percent, based on 139,987 out of a 704,462 county total. Estimates from July 2016 reflect and anticipated increase to 21.5 percent.

“Just saying this is a Democratic or Republican issue is a finger-pointing game that has been going on forever, I think,” said Jonas. “Complete the bill, and do not use it as a selling point for deciding on a new candidate for office.”


–Lake County agency accepting DACA renewals–