June 19, 2014
Host: José Cárdenas
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- Delia Salvatierra, attorney with the Salvatierra Law Group, Los Abogados board member and past chair of the Immigration section for the State Bar of Arizona along with Mitzi Castro, field organizer for the No Dream Deferred campaign talk about the challenges, successes and results of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.
- Delia Salvatierra - Attorney, Board Member and Past Chair, Salvatierra Law Group, Los Abogados and Immigration section for the State Bar of Arizona
- Mitzi Castro - Field Organizer, No Dream Deferred Campaign
| Keywords: immigration
José Cárdenas: This month marked the second anniversary of DACA, Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals. This is a program President Obama created for young immigrants who come to the United States illegally when they were children. With me to talk about what has happened with the program is Mitzi Castro, field organizer for the No Dream Deferred Campaign. And Delia Salvatierra, an attorney with the Salvatierra Law Group, she is also the past chair for the immigration section of the State Bar of Arizona and a board member for Los Abogados. Thank you both for joining us on “Horizonte.” Delia you were on here, you've been on the show several times, but we talked about DACA when it first came about. Remind everybody what the criteria are to be registered under DACA.
Delia Salvatierra: A DACA recipient has to have graduated from high school or obtained a G.E.D. or currently enrolled in high school or a G.E.D. No significant criminal history, no felonies, have entered the United States prior to their 16th birthday and be able to prove that lawful entry –- that entry into the United States. And those are the main three ingredients for a successful DACA application.
José Cárdenas: And I didn’t catch –- The age is 15, right?
Delia Savatierra: That they entered under the age of 16 and that they have been physically and continuously present without significant departures from the United States since June 15 of 2007.
José Cárdenas: And is there an age cap?
Delia Salvatierra: Thirty at the time DACA was announced, which was June 15, 2012.
José Cárdenas: So Mitzi, your group has been working with the people who are eligible for DACA status. Tell us about the organization: when it started and what you've been doing.
Mitzi Castro: The organization was actually established with Delia Salvatierra as well as other attorneys. And they worked together to come up with this magic formula to verify that applicants do in fact meet the criteria. It's actually been around for two years, and the program has been picked up by several organizations, like Somos America. Unfortunately, their funding wasn't able to continue. Then Own the Dream came on, and we've been able to help them since. So we've had, I believe, one drive at least every month since June of last year.
José Cárdenas: And what your doing is you’re going out and telling people, this is the program, this is how you can register for it. And now, you're reminding them that they have to reregister if they were among the original group because their registration is about to expire. Is that right?
Mitzi Castro: Yes, I believe it was either a week or a week and a half ago the DACA renewal information was released. And yes, those that were accepted within the first couple of months, so starting in October or September and even some of them in August, that were accepted, they have anywhere between 150 to 120 days to submit their renewal applications.
José Cárdenas: So, Delia, before we talk about the renewal process, your assessment of how successful the program has been in Arizona.
Delia Salvatierra: It's been hugely successful. To the extent it has given Arizona youth an opportunity to work, come out of shadows. It's given them an opportunity to obtain a Social Security number, seek educational opportunities through Maricopa County Community Colleges. Unfortunately, they can't drive because the state of Arizona refuses to issue young adults on DACA with driver's licenses. But I think it's given them a sense of empowerment, a sense of belonging that they didn't have before.
José Cárdenas: Any sense for how many people have obtained DACA status in Arizona?
Delia Salvatierra: I want to say it's over half a million. I think USCIS --
José Cárdenas: Half a million in Arizona?
Delia Salvatierra: Yes, absolutely. I think the highest numbers are in California, Florida and Arizona.
José Cárdenas: So nationwide what would the numbers be?
Delia Salvatierra: I think it's nearly a million and a half, two.
José Cárdenas: Nationwide?
Delia Salvatierra: Nationwide.
José Cárdenas: But half a million of them are in Arizona?
Delia Salvatierra: About 400,000 in Arizona.
José Cárdenas: Eligible or who have actually obtained DACA status?
Delia Salvatierra: Obtained DACA status.
José Cárdenas: And so many of them now are facing the need to renew. Any concerns about that?
Delia Salvatierra: What I'd like to see that they are not so busy in their own lives and that they follow through on this administrative process, because they really have 120 to 150 days to apply for DACA, so that there is no interruption in their status. And their status is evidenced by a work authorization document. And so, if they don't have it, they will be laid off and employers will have to be forced to let them go until they renew their status. I think that’s the greatest concern --
José Cárdenas: The 150-day period we’re talking about, that's roughly that time period before their two years expires?
Delia Salvatierra: Correct.
José Cárdenas: Relatively simple process?
Delia Salvatierra: Relatively. The Obama administration and USCIs has made the process for renewal extremely easy and straightforward. The initial application process is paper intensive, document intensive but not the renewal process. It is straightforward. It is $465. The fee has not increased since the initial announcement of DACA.
José Cárdenas: So the renewal costs the same as the original application.
Delia Salvatierra: Yes.
José Cárdenas: And Mitzi, what is your group doing to help people, to get out the word that they need to do this?
Mitzi Castro: More than anything we are focusing on social media. We understand people are glued to their phones 24/7. So, we work during the peak hours, you know, between -- before the nine to five starts and during lunch we know people are looking at their phone then. Aside from social media, we do what we did with the initial round of the campaign, which is visiting organizations and other businesses that have been really active in supporting the work of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition. We have done a lot of media just in general, being on TV and on the radio, and it's really helped. We always get, ‘Oh, we heard you heard you on Radio Campesina.
We heard but here or there.’ So it's been really successful.
José Cárdenas: And about how many people do you have coming through your offices to get reregistered or actually most of the time thus far would have been the initial registration?
Mitzi Castro: Based on the numbers we have from the last forum, which was last Saturday, we either informed or assisted at least 180 people. We are hoping to have the same amount of numbers, probably half of that every Thursday when we have our information forum.
José Cárdenas: For a lot of people, $465 is a lot of money. Has that been a real deterrent?
Mitzi Castro: Yes, it definitely has. We’ve actually worked on, as a part of our campaign, different ways to help people fundraise for that. Whether it be a car wash or the money pot we work with closely, eMoneyPool, which is an online version of that and individuals are able to obtain that and eventually build their credit once they have the deferred action. That's one really cool way for them to obtain the $465.
José Cárdenas: So Delia, you indicated that some of the benefits of DACA haven't been realized because the kids -- they’re not all kids -- the people who get that status and the employment authorization document can't get to work. And so, they may not be able to get to jobs because they can't drive. Any concern that may discourage people from renewing their DACA status because it hasn't done that much good?
Delia Salvatierra: I think so. But I think that it was a deterrent when DACA was announced. And Governor Brewer immediately announced that it would not authorize driver's licenses to DACA recipients. I think it was a deterrent then, and it will be a deterrent now. I think those who have DACA must focus on what DACA means. It means authorized presence by the federal government. And federal law trumps state law with immigration matters. And the opportunity to work and the opportunity to seek an education is paramount to a driver's license.
José Cárdenas: Now, with the political earthquake that occurred last week with Eric Cantor being defeated in the primary, a lot of people are saying immigration reform isn't going to happen this year. There was some doubt as to whether it would anyway, but there was some hope. Do you think that will have any effect one way or the other on people renewing?
Delia Salvatierra: No. I think DACA is a very special and unique program authorized under executive power. And I think that folks are not banking on Congress to pass immigration reform in order for them to continue their status. I think the Obama administration and DHS have done an excellent job to keep this program alive. I don't think it'll go away. I think it can only be expanded. I think it would be foolish by any future administration to take it away. Whether it means, you know, that comprehensive immigration reform is not going happen, I agree, I don't think it'll happen this year.
José Cárdenas: So Mitzi, what about your organization? Have you seen any impact from the debate of whether there's going to be immigration reform or not, does that affect the number of people you see coming forward to register for DACA?
Mitzi Castro: We’ve noticed several individuals coming up to us and asking us about this. I think it's more or less the parents. If anything, it's helped us to increase our numbers with the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and the campaign. I think people are more alert and just looking to see what it is they can do, and how they can get involved really to make a difference in passing immigration reform if it were to happen, or just in general being in the know.
José Cárdenas: So by way of summary, based upon everything you said, DACA pretty much a success?
Delia Salvatierra: A great success.
José Cárdenas: And hopefully people will be renewing, and continue to get the benefits.
Delia Salvatierra: Timely.
José Cárdenas: Well, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, it won’t be necessary in two years, but we may be talking about his again. Thank you so much. That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and Eight, I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good night.
Legal Process for Undocumented Minors
- Thousands of undocumented immigrant children who have entered into Southern Texas illegally were brought to Arizona for screening and processing. Gladis Molina Alt, managing attorney for The Florence Project children's program talks about the legal process for undocumented minors who enter the U.S. alone.
- Gladis Molina Alt - Managing Attorney, The Florence Project
| Keywords: immigration
José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. This month, busloads of immigrant children caught crossing the border illegally in Texas were being dropped off in Nogales. Also, this happened the same week as the release of hundreds of undocumented families at bus stations in Phoenix and Tucson. Joining me to talk about this is Gladis Molina, managing attorney for the Florence Project's children's program. This organization provides free legal services to men, women, and children detained in Arizona for immigration removal proceedings. Gladis, welcome to Horizonte. This is the second week in a row we've covered this topic because it's gotten a lot of attention. Some suggestion that the Obama administration is punishing Arizonans in some way, I think we dispelled that myth last week. But the number of children continues to grow. Tell us what the current situation is in connection with Nogales and what's going on there.
Gladis Molina: What we understand so far is that there is a large number of children coming into the United States, and a lot of those kids are having to sit in border patrol stations in South Texas and in Arizona, because there are no beds to transfer them to, to the Department of Health and Human Services, namely the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is where they are supposed to go. In other words, when CBP processes them, after three days, and no more than three days, the kids are supposed to be transferred --
José Cárdenas: There's some kind of legal restriction on how long CBP can have these kids in their custody, and that's three days?
Gladis Molina: Correct, yes.
José Cárdenas: So, they have to move them. And is that part of the reason why they are moved to Arizona for processing that would then allow them to go to these other agencies?
Gladis Molina: In order to meet that requirement, CBP put together a plan, you know, the President on June 2nd said FEMA should coordinate this, but they put together a plan to have this make a CBP station in Nogales open up so that they can help process the kids into medical screenings, in order to be able to take them to emergency reception centers that are essentially being contracted right now with the Department of Defense in Oklahoma and California and in Texas.
José Cárdenas: So, what all is involved in the processing that goes on? The kids arrive in Nogales, and I understand it's about 300 a day right now?
Gladis Molina: About 300 kids a day coming into Nogales.
José Cárdenas: So they go there, they go to this processing center. It’s what? I heard a reference on the radio. It's a converted Costco or something, the size of a big warehouse store.
Gladis Molina: Yeah, I'm not sure what the facility used to be or --
José Cárdenas: So they’re there, and in what sense are they processed? What happens to them?
Gladis Molina: CBP conducts interviews to ask them about who they are, where they come from, why did they come, are they afraid to return? And they do paperwork. So it’s, in a way, interrogations of the children about their immigration history, and why they are in the United States, and who they are here with or how they came. And then from there they do medical screenings so that they can make sure they don't have, like, tuberculosis or other diseases. Then they ship them off to shelters -- be it shelters, facilities contracted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement or the beds that are being provided through the Department of Defense.
José Cárdenas: As I understand it, whether they go to one place versus the other depends on their age, principally?
Gladis Molina: They are prioritizing. They are prioritizing younger kids to go to the ORR facilities that are established and have more services. And then they are sending older kids, 12 and over, to Department of Defense facilities, because they just require less care than a smaller child.
José Cárdenas: When we say Department of Defense facilities we're talking about military bases?
Gladis Molina: Correct.
José Cárdenas: The first group of kids who are put in custody of ORR, Office of Refugee Resettlement, what was happens to them?
Gladis Molina: They get to the ORR shelter and then they get interviewed by a social worker or a youth care worker about where their family is and what they were hoping to do in the United States, if they made it. Then they contact family members so they can go ahead and begin a process called family reunification, so that the children can be released from federal custody and they don't have to sit in detention.
José Cárdenas: So somebody gets to one of these ORR centers and says, ‘I have an aunt in Chicago.’ They will contact the aunt and then send the child there?
Gladis Molina: Yeah. And the case manager will do the paperwork, and kids also get interviewed by clinicians because the kids may have suffered trauma along the way. Young girls who are raped, boys who have seen people die along the journey. And there is trauma that needs to be dealt with. So how that is dealt with is with clinical --
José Cárdenas: And some of that may have occurred in their country of origin. What we're hearing is that the reason for the increasing numbers is the level of violence in Honduras and Guatemala.
Gladis Molina: Yeah, that's correct.
José Cárdenas: And then the ones who go to the Department of Defense facilities, the military bases, basically the same thing? If they have relatives, the relatives are contacted and then they are sent to them?
Gladis Molina: Yes, from what I understand, those services are also provided there.
José Cárdenas: And then after that what happens?
Gladis Molina: Then after that the child goes live with that family relative. They continue to face deportation process, removal process. So going back right to the border patrol processing stage, they get asked questions about, you know, where they come from and whatnot. And at that moment, the information the child gives is then used by border patrol to type up notices to appear that are then filed with immigration courts. And those notices to appear are essentially charging documents, so that the children can be put into a removal or deportation process.
José Cárdenas: So, it's not like it's a free pass to stay in the United States.
Gladis Molina: No.
José Cárdenas: They are put into proceedings that may take a while, but they do have parent states and so forth.
Gladis Molina: Correct.
José Cárdenas: And is there any kind of a track record as to how many actually show up on their appointed date?
Gladis Molina: I am not aware of it. I am not aware of what the likelihood is that the children are going to come to court after they are released. I do know that having a lawyer increases the chances of that child showing up to court. I have read studies done by organizations that say that a child who has an attorney is more likely to come to court because they know where to show up, when to show up and are not getting something in the mail that says, you're supposed to go to court, and that kid doesn't understand it's a notice of hearing or even understand English to read it.
José Cárdenas: And that's where organizations like yours get involved. In connection with the removal proceedings, so for example, the kids in Nogales, at least the ones who stay, they would then be potential clients for your organization?
Gladis Molina: Right. So kids that are sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters, we provide basically your rights presentations to them. And the kids that are not able to reunify with family, then we take on their cases. Some of those cases we succeed in presenting defenses for special juvenile status. For kids with a past of abus, abandonment or neglect, some of those kids that are not able to stay in the United States through a defense in immigration court, then we go to immigration court and we ask for voluntary departure or removal, so they can be repatriated to their home country.
José Cárdenas: Physically, where would those kids be housed, the ones who are not reunited their families?
Gladis Molina: In shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
José Cárdenas: And have you or anybody in your organization actually physically inspected the processing center we've been talking about in Nogales?
Gladis Molina: No.
José Cárdenas: We've heard people though express some concerns about the conditions, in part, just because of the numbers of kids there. Do you know if anybody's looking into that to make sure they are being treated humanely?
Gladis Molina: I know the American Immigration Lawyers Association has been in contact with CBP to go tour the facility, but I don't know if they have been able to get into the facility.
José Cárdenas: What is the biggest myth or misconception that you think people have about what's going on and about this whole process?
Gladis Molina: The biggest misconception is that folks think that once children are processed and then they are released to family members, that somehow the kids are given a permission or a lawful permit to stay in the United States, and that is not the case. Being processed and then being allowed to go live with a family member is just a means for the federal government saying, we're not going to keep you in our custody, we're going to release you so you can be a child going through the deportation proceedings in the least restrictive setting. And quite frankly, also to save the government resources, I believe, because it takes resources to house those kids, I think. And people thinking that the kids somehow are given a permission or an immigration benefit to stay in the United States is the biggest misconception in the whole process, I think.
José Cárdenas: Well, we've done what we can to deal with some of these misconceptions. You’ve been very helpful this evening. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."
Gladis Molina: Thank you.