DACA decision could separate Alaskan mother, toddler
The Center for American Progress estimates there are 138 recipients of the Deffered Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA. CNN reports the so-called dreamers may lose their status starting in March.
But at least one Alaskan may only have until the end of September.
Hun Jung Kim has lived in the U.S. for twenty years. Originally from South Korea, Kim graduated from high school in Anchorage, attended university, and now works as a translator to support her two year-old son. But, legally, all of that could be taken from her in a matter of weeks.
Kim was granted a work visa under DACA, which expires at the end of the month. She's already applied for renewal, but it hasn't come yet.
"If I don't get my renewal in time, I will lose my job on September 30th. I'm not able to support my child and i'm not able to pay my rent, I’m not able to pay any of the bills that I need to pay. So, I’m really hoping that I will get my renewal soon," Kim said.
And it gets worse. Kim's two year-old son, Alex, is a U.S. citizen. So, she can't legally leave the country with him unless a court grants her full custody -- which means tracking down his military father.
"I just hope that ICE [U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] doesn’t come arrest me and separate me from my child. That’s my biggest fear, to lose him," Kim said as she choked back tears.
On their lunch hour, dozens of people rallied Tuesday to defend so-called dreamers like Kim.
"We have to defend these folks, they've been here forever," said one woman. "Most of them are in school, they have good jobs, they're really productive members of society," added another.
Immigration attorney Margaret Stock agrees most DACA recipients want to follow federal law to obtain citizenship, but the law is riddled with inconsistencies. One example, Stock says anyone who has been in illegal status for more than a year can't return to the United States for ten years after leaving the country.
"So, even if you qualify for a visa and you go overseas to try to get your visa. As soon as you go to the American consulate and apply for your visa, even if it's been approved already, you get told 'oh you left the United States, you can't have your visa anymore,'" Stock added.
Stock says DACA recipients support themselves financially, some even serve in the U.S. military. But if they're deported, it would cost taxpayers money.
"They will then be put in a detention center where they will get food and shelter and medical care and everything at the tax payer's expense," said Stock. "And they'll be in deportation proceedings for years."
In Alaska, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says those deportation proceedings will hurt, not help.
"Alaska is in tight economic times. This is not something that we can afford at this particular juncture. So to make a policy move like this is really ill considered here," said Tara Rich, Legal and Policy Director for the ACLU of Alaska. Rich says the organization is weighing legal action against President Donald Trump's decision to end the DACA program Tuesday.
Here, a change from Congress is the only hope for dreamers to hang on to the life they've always known -- and for communities to keep the neighbors they've always had.