Panel discusses DACA changes

IMG_2291Photo by Diana Figueroa

By April Federico | Features Editor

Imagine growing up in a country that you consider to be your home and being told that the current administration is planning to kick you out of said country. That is the sentiment of approximately 1.2 million immigrants who have been protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy more commonly referred to as DACA.

In an effort to educate fellow students and faculty, there was a DACA panel event held on Monday, Oct. 23. The panel was sponsored by the Spanish Club, Multicultural Student Union (MSU), and the RWU Law Feinstein Center for Pro-Bono & Experiential Education.

When President Donald Trump announced in early September that his administration planned to rescind this immigration policy, many people raised concerns about the implications of ending the program. The policy, which had been signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012, provides temporary protection for qualified undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.

Immigration law attorney and RWU Law professor Ondine Galvez Sniffin talked about the “Dreamers,” a segment of the undocumented immigrant population. Many DACA recipients will end up becoming Dreamers.

Although the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act does not provide a pathway to permanent residence, it is possible that the DREAM Act could lead to citizenship.

A generous portion of these immigrants emigrate from Mexico as well as other parts of Central and South America, with many people escaping from the gang violence that occurs in their respective countries.

Panelist Rodrigo Pimentel, a University of Rhode Island student and DACA recipient, shared his story of coming to America and his parents’ pursuance of the “iconic American Dream.” Two decades after coming to the United States, Pimentel’s father had created a successful business and subsequently fulfilled his “American Dream.

It wasn’t until he was 13 years old that Pimentel came to fully understand what it meant to be “undocumented,” as that was when his family began to talk about it with him. In 2013, Pimentel applied for DACA, just one year after the program began.

Although Pimentel can’t work in federal jobs or qualify for subsidized loans, he was fortunate enough to get a job to pay for college. Through DACA, he is allowed to have a driver’s license but, if the program were to be cut, then that would be one of the things taken away from him.

Panelist Dr. Peter S. Margulies, an RWU professor of law, called the news of the administration rescinding DACA both a “sad commentary on America” and a “national disgrace.”

Margulies went on to discuss the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the procedures followed by federal agencies, as well as the constitutional challenges and arguments to the rescindment.

Throughout his election campaign, Trump’s main “argument” about immigration mainly surrounded his claim that ‘rapists’ were the population of people emigrating from Mexico. This is an issue that, according to Sniffin, has been “kicked around since 2001.” Sniffin added that she loves seeing how the youth have become politically active.

Pimentel urged the audience to have conversations about this issue and/or to call their local politicians so that their voices can be heard.

“The purpose of this panel is to bring awareness to the impact of legal status here in the U.S,” said senior Diana Figueroa, the president of the Spanish Club. “We wanted to share the stories of others because we have a role as messengers to those who do not have a voice. Being legal or not shouldn’t deny you of your opportunity, and the end goal of this panel is to show DACA recipients that they are not alone and that we at Roger Williams University #DefendDACA.”

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