The March 5 deadline for Congress to come up with a solution for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants known as Dreamers has come and gone, without a solution.
While recent court rulings have temporarily preserved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program the uncertainty and confusion among Dreamers nationwide remains sky high.
“We're finding a lot of people are confused by all these court rulings. Governing by court injunctions isn't the way our government should be working,” said Paul Quiñonez, a volunteer with the Washington Dream Coalition.
KING 5 first introduced you to Quiñonez, a Gonzaga grad who now works in politics, last September, the week President Trump announced his administration would wind down the DACA program but give Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix.
So far, efforts in the Senate have failed, including a bipartisan proposal that failed to gain the 60 votes needed to move forward.
“I think the sense of uncertainty and disappointment is pretty profound today,” said Jorge L. Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Barón says even though recent court decisions provide some temporary protection for individuals currently enrolled in DACA, the long-term outlook is still very much unknown.
“Community members are in limbo,” said Barón. “For us as service providers, we're uncertain about what to tell community members because the situation is so fluid. I think there's a message we can send today that right now there is an opportunity to renew their work permits and that protection under DACA.”
Individuals who have previously been approved for the DACA program can apply to renew their status, according to the court order. However, new applications are not being accepted.
“DACA was an important temporary solution, but it is not the permanent solution,” said Barón, since the program does not provide a pathway to citizenship. “The permanent solution lies in Congress.”
From Washington D.C. to Washington State, Dreamers are trying to keep pressure on lawmakers. A demonstration is planned for Tuesday night in Auburn, part of the district represented by Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Washington.
“Until we have an agreement, I will continue to make the case for urgent action with Congressional leadership through letters and cosponsoring bills,” Reichert said in a statement Monday.
Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., whose district includes Yakima, called the inaction by Congress “a bitter disappointment.”
“18,000 DACA recipients in Washington state find themselves in continuous legal limbo, and I urge my colleagues to come together to give them certainty,” wrote Newhouse in a statement.
“Just because federal courts are allowing existing permits to be renewed does not mean that Congress should continue to delay and be subjected to demands from the extremes in this debate,” he continued.
It’s unknown when Congress will take up the issue again, or whether it could be part of the omnibus funding bill due later this month.
In the meantime, Dreamers say they’ll keep fighting for answers, six months after their roller coaster began.
“It’s definitely changed our lives, how we live,” said Quiñonez. “Seeing other activists being targeted for deportation, it’s made us worry that the same could happen to us but we again see that we have no other option but to continue to speak up.”