KNOXVILLE (WATE)- An immigration advocacy group, AKIN, said there are more than 8,000 people covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in Tennessee.
They are commonly known as dreamers. One of those dreamers is a college student in Knoxville. She did not want to reveal her name in fear of deportation, but saysTuesday’s announcement made her nervous about the future of her status.
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“I’m just trying to keep faith that Congress will come up with something better,” she said.
The student and nearly 800,000 other dreamers are waiting on Congress and hoping their next move allows them to stay. DACA was put in place by the Obama Administration to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from being deported. It’s been the focus of a lawsuit by state attorneys general that claimed the Obama Adminsitration over-stepped its constitutional powers by failing to enforce federal immigration law.
On Tuesday, the constitutional over-reach argument was brought up by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He said DACA would be winding down and Congress was given time to react.
“We didn’t have a choice in coming here and as the guidelines. We have no criminal records so as DACA recipients what are we doing to hurt America?” said the Knoxville dreamer.
Jeremy Jennings is an immigration lawyer in Knoxville. He said he’s helped hundreds of immigrants apply to be a DACA recipient.
“This is a call for dreamers and dreamer supporters to really motivate their congressman,” said Jennings.
He said there are not many options for his clients other than wait on Congress’ decision. If a dreamer’s status expires before March 5th, they can apply for renewal. That will give them at least 2 more years to stay if Congress does not act. This woman is included in that group. She hopes she can at least finish her education and said if she goes back to Honduras, she will not have the same opportunities.
Tennessee lawmakers on DACA
Many Tennessee lawmakers are commending President Trump’s action.
“This is something that should be the periew of the legislative branch, working on theses issues to get it accomplished,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
Rep. Scott Desjarlais says he also supports the president’s decision, saying “Any solution to illegal immigration must include border security and domestic law enforcement, and Congress must write the law. For that reason, federal courts struck down the former president’s unconstitutional orders, and I support Kate’s Law, defunding sanctuary cities, a border wall, and a legal, merit-based immigration system that works better for American citizens, workers and taxpayers. Our focus should be Americans out of work, underpaid, or concerned for their safety, because of unfettered illegal immigration and related border crime.”
Rep. DesJarlais recently voted for Kate’s Law to strengthen penalties on deported aliens who return to the U.S. and for the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which would deny federal funds to cities like San Francisco, where the local government refuses to cooperate with immigration authorities. He also voted to fully fund the President’s request for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, another bill awaiting action in the Senate.
Congressman Phil Roe issued a statement saying:
“For eight years, the Obama administration refused to enforce our immigration laws and tried to make law through executive action instead. America is a nation of laws. President Trump is right that we shouldn’t leave it to each administration to decide which laws it wants to enforce. Congress can and should address our broken immigration system, where we can lawfully and thoughtfully consider how best to secure the border and how best to deal with those immigrants who already here.”
Senator Lamar Alexander says he believes their is a place for “dreamers’ in the Untied States. In 2013, he voted for legislation that would have allowed law abiding children who entered the United States illegal, received a high school diploma and completed at least two years of college or served in the military for four years to apply for legal permanent resident status.
“Just as President Nixon went to China, President Trump uniquely can lead a revision of our immigration laws that secures our borders, improves our system of legal immigration and solves problems such as the 800,000 children who grew up here, but were brought here illegally. I voted for such a law in 2013 and am willing to work with the president to do that again,” said Senator Alexander.
Meanwhile, other Tennessee lawmakers are commending the President’s action.