Denia Perez (right) with law professor Sheila Hayre. | Ken Liebeskind, The North Haven Citizen
September 12, 2017 11:06AM
Denia Perez, 27, a third year law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law, benefits from the DACA program now, but is worried that her protections may expire now DACA has been suspended by the Trump administration.
“I was born in Mexico City and emigrated to the U.S. when I was 11 months old and my parents were undocumented. Last year they got their green cards and my three younger brothers were all born in the U.S. so I’m the only undocumented person in my family.”
President Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012. “I applied and got DACA in the fall of 2012,” Perez said, “and I renewed it once more. But now I won’t be able to renew it because my work authorization doesn’t expire until next October and the Trump Administration established that the only way I can renew it is if it expires before March 5, so unless Congress does something more permanent I will be unable to work legally and I will be unprotected from deportation.”
Perez said since her parents have their green cards they can petition for her to get one. “But the problem is the system is so backlogged at best I’ll have to wait 10 years and won’t get work authorization while I’m waiting for it to be processed,” she said. “I’m in limbo for 10 years and it’s all uncertain.”
Sheila Hayre, a visiting associate law professor at QU, said Congressional passage of DACA will be an uphill battle. “Thus far it’s been a stalemate,” she said. “It’s devastating because this is the population we should be behind. No one believes in punishing innocent people. Whatever their parents did it is unfair to punish young people for something they had no control over.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions supported the suspension of DACA by saying the program is unconstitutional and has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take their jobs. The nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all cannot be accepted.”
Perez said, “Sessions’ statement was repeating the awful xenophobic rhetoric about immigrants, how we take jobs and how Obama’s program was unconstitutional.”
Hayre said, “He talked about the rule of law but DACA kids follow the law by going through background checks and presenting themselves to immigration to regularize their status. DACA kids want to pay their taxes, get their social security number and participate in the economy. Allowing DACA youth like Denia to work and pay taxes actually grows the economy and can lead to the creation of new jobs. Sessions’ comments upset me.”
While Perez is in danger of losing DACA benefits, she is assisting others with immigration issues. “I worked for a non-profit this summer and assisted with deportation defense and legal advocacy. On Sept. 26, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion about DACA. We’ve invited a number of legal experts to discuss the issue and I will speak as well.”
The panel will be held at Quinnipiac Law School and begins at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26.