Immigration attorneys in the San Francisco Bay Area are attempting to prevent the private information of young, undocumented people from falling into the hands of the federal government in anticipation of the Donald Trump administration.
Reacting to the anti-immigrant fervor spurred by Trump’s presidential campaign, Amanda Alvarado-Ford and other immigration attorneys have temporarily stopped processing new applications for undocumented immigrants to receive work permits through a federal policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“We’re worried that Trump is going to take the names and addresses of these young people … and turn them over to [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and get them deported,” said Alvarado-Ford, an attorney with Mission District-based La Raza Centro Legal.
DACA allows noncitizen young people to receive temporary relief from the risk of deportation and instead the opportunity to work for two years on a renewable basis.
Since it was created through an executive order from President Barack Obama in 2012, Trump has the power to rescind DACA on his first day in office. The president-elect has pledged to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama” on Day 1.
Trump also said he plans to deport millions and cut federal funding for sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration authorities, but DACA is particularly vulnerable because it is an executive order.
“Because DACA is a policy, it can just be simply undone with a stroke of a pen,” said Sara Feldman, project director with the Immigration Legal Resource Center.
Almost 750,000 undocumented immigrants have received work permits through DACA as of June 30, according to the most recent data available from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Most of those people — nearly 600,000 — immigrated from Mexico, and 214,132 lived in California.
“Filling out the DACA application, you kind of out yourself and your entire family through all the questions that are asked,” said Manuel, an undocumented San Francisco State University student who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of deportation.
Manuel was speaking at a news conference last Thursday where Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called on higher education systems in California to protect the information of undocumented students.
DACA is for people who were under 16 years old when they entered the country illegally before 2007.
Those who file initial DACA applications before December are not likely to have their applications processed until after Trump’s first day, raising concern that a DACA would never be granted and the information instead used to streamline the deportation efforts.
While the La Raza Centro Legal will still process resubmissions for those who have previously received DACA — the process is faster and the information is also already in the possession of the federal government — Alvarado-Ford said she will not submit DACAs for first-time applicants until December at the earliest.
“We just have to wait now and figure out what actually happens when he gets into office,” Alvarado-Ford said.
The grassroots organization is just one of several immigrant law organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area that is no longer processing initial DACA applications, according to Alvarado-Ford.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which does not work directly with undocumented immigrants but with organizations that do, is also advising its partners to avoid processing initial DACAs because “it doesn’t seem that the benefits would outweigh the risks,” Feldman said.
Maria, another undocumented student at San Francisco State University who spoke at the news conference, said she came to the country when she was 7 and expressed concerns over DACA being rescinded.
“Getting DACA was really important to me because I was able to go to college and afford it,” Maria said. “With the election … it was really scary thinking I’m halfway done with school and it could be taken away from me.”