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As DACA Protections Wear Out, Undocumented Immigrants Face More Deportations

Millions of undocumented immigrants’ lives may be on the line.

Marchers calling for the end of surveillance, deportations and criminalization of undocumented peoples march in Los Angeles, California, on September 11, 2017. (Photo: Molly Adams)

An attempt to move forward on protection for DREAMers has once more failed to make it through Congress — and that’s a horrifying thought for the millions of immigrants who were brought into the country as children and now face the very strong possibility of deportation to a home they don’t even remember.

And that fear isn’t unfounded. In fact, it’s already happening.

The administration’s efforts to locate and deport those who have overstayed their initial green cards or are otherwise living in the country without proper documentation are picking up steam. And that’s despite the fact that over a month remains before the DREAM Act officially ends.

The Intercept reports that one group being overwhelmingly singled out are immigration activists, with a number of key leaders being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE].

“It seems like they’re trying to create an atmosphere of uncertainty where nobody feels safe,” Nathan Yaffe, a lawyer who works with the New Sanctuary Coalition to help people file asylum applications, told The Intercept. “At the same time, they’re trying to exile our moral leaders in order to break the movement….ICE thinks that by removing the leaders, they can destroy the movement.”

Activist arrests are on the upswing, but they aren’t the only ones. Some of the newest detainees have been in the country for decades, and now they’re being removed from their families and processed to be sent “home.”

One such arrest is Michigan man Jorge Garcia, who was deported — ironically — on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As USA Today reports:

Garcia, a married father of two from Lincoln Park, had lived in the US since 1989, brought to the US by undocumented family members. He had struggled for years to become a legal resident, trying various paths with the help of attorneys and working with immigration officials. Though Garcia faced orders of removal, US officials had allowed him for years to stay. But that changed in November, when he was told by ICE that he would be removed, part of a toughening of immigration enforcement under President Trump.

Garcia is the current face of DREAMer deportation — a group of arrested individuals with no crime except that they were brought to the country as children, stayed in the country after their visas expired and now live in a United States firmly controlled by a xenophobic GOP.

But to show they are equal opportunity deporters, the government is working on ousting some long-time residents who aren’t people of color, too.

Dr. Lukasz Niec, who immigrated to the US from Poland with his parents when he was just five years old, also faces deportation. Also in Michigan, Niec is now being held in county detention, with threats to send him from the country for his crimes of “moral turpitude.” Those crimes were committed when he was a teen — he destroyed less than $100 worth of property once, and he concealed stolen property worth more than $100 — a conviction which was expunged from his record but is still apparently enough for ICE to deport him over.

“Niec’s record has multiple blemishes,” the Washington Post reports. “But his wife insists that he is not a risk to the public. When he renewed his permanent green card a few years ago, he was given a ‘false sense of security,’ that it would be enough, she said.”

With the government shutdown averted for another three weeks and a promise of a DACA vote on the table, millions of undocumented immigrants‘ lives may be on the line based on the outcome of that eventual negotiation. But DACA only covers a portion of those who are in the country as permanent residents or even on expired paperwork. Extending the DREAM Act will help some, but not everyone, leaving older residents watching for an eventual summons or arrest until we address true immigration reform with a path to citizenship for all.

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