California has filed a new lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging its decision to end the immigration program DACA.
The suit follows a separate legal challenge led by New York and Washington state last week, claiming the change in policy impacts the state’s more than 17,000 dreamers as well as Washington’s economy.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allowed children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents the ability to work and go to school, if approved for the program.
However, the program does not provide a pathway to legal citizenship. Immigration advocates are now pushing Congress to come up with a fix that provides longer-term certainty.
“I'm preparing for worst case scenario,” said Ernesto Lopez of Lacey. “Best case scenario, I would still be here with a path to citizenship due to good record and good intentions.”
Lopez, a 32-year-old DACA recipient who married a U.S. citizen and has a 3-year-old child, remains hopeful lawmakers will act, yet he's terrified he could lose everything in six months.
“This is where I grew up; I have nowhere to go,” said Lopez. “I've never been to Mexico as an adult. I wouldn't know where to start.”
Brought to the U.S. at age 15, Lopez has been in the DACA program since 2014. However, his work permit expires at the end of March, just past the March 5 deadline set by the Trump administration to phase out the program unless Congress comes up with a legislative fix.
DACA recipients whose permits expire before March 5 can try to apply for a renewal by Oct 5, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
“That’s the current crisis mode that we’re in, trying to get the applications for that group filed,” said Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
However, Dreamers whose benefits expire shortly after March 5 worry they will be first in line to face the consequences of the program ending.
“Those who have the early expiration dates are the ones who are the most anxious, because a lot of them are working, and they’re going to potentially lose their jobs if this doesn’t get resolved,” said Barón.
The focus now remains on Congress, which has six months to pass a legislative fix. President Donald Trump has given mixed messages about what could happen beyond that point if lawmakers don’t act.
“We have a serious issue; we have to fix this,” said Lopez. “At least provide a path for us to follow, for us to fix the dilemma that we're under. I would like to spend the rest of my life with my child and my wife and be part of this beautiful country. There's so much we can provide.”
Lopez says that even though he's married to a U.S. citizen, he does not have a path to citizenship, because he was brought to the U.S. illegally as a teenager.
Meanwhile, King County and Seattle have announced more than $2 million in emergency funding for immigrants and refugees in the region. That includes funding for legal services, which are now in high demand by DACA recipients uncertain about their future.
“I join advocates, faith leaders and elected officials across the country to call on Congress to pass legislation to make our commitment to Dreamers permanent,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine during a news conference on Monday.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, one of the organizations to receive some of the emergency funding, is holding community forums around Washington State to provide legal counseling and information.
The City of Tacoma has also compiled resources here