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Clock Ticking Down on DREAMer Protection Legislation

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A month after graduating from the University at Albany, the daughter of undocumented Ecuadorian immigrants is utilizing her bilingual skills as a secretary in a personal injury law firm.

At the same time, she is awaiting the looming federal deadline for a legislative solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, of which she is a recipient.

Jhoanna Haro, the graduate thinking of a career in law, questioned, “Am I going to have a future here?”

DACA, a policy established by the Obama administration that protects undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children, was rescinded by the Trump administration in September.

Congress has until March 5 to make a legislative solution to the program that would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

Separate from the federal program, there is a state DREAM Act that has not yet been enacted.

Speaking in the budget hearing on higher education last week, SUNY Student Assembly President Marc Cohen said that DACA recipients in the university system “have reason to worry.”

Cohen called on Albany to make up for the federal government’s failure and pass the state DREAM Act, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in the proposed budget.

“Every New Yorker should have access to the Tuition Assistance Program and to the Excelsior Scholarship, including DREAMers,” Cohen said.

Since DACA doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, Haro was unable to receive financial aid when she was a student.

The state DREAM Act includes provisions that, if passed, would allow for students protected by the policy to receive financial aid under certain qualifications.

Haro believes financial aid would help DREAMers still in school. However, she believes a legislative solution that would give DREAMers legal residency in the country is more pertinent.

“It’s about being able to be considered human,” she said.

This draws attention to the recent three-day government shutdown. At the center of the shutdown was the issue of immigration.

When the government shutdown, Cohen put forth in a statement, “A legislative solution to protect DACA recipients has broad bipartisan support in the public and in Congress, and would pass both houses if a vote were called.”

Last fall, Jerlisa Fontaine sent an email out on behalf of the Student Association two days after the Trump administration decision to rescind the DACA program. The message articulated SA’s stance against the federal decision.

Fontaine referenced students affected by the decision, writing, “Know that we will fight like never before to ensure that you will not have to live in the shadows ever again, and that your humanity will not be ignored.”

After speaking to the Albany Student Press in September, Haro hoped other DACA recipients at UAlbany would speak out.

“I’m 100 percent sure that there’s other students in UAlbany that are DACA recipients or maybe they’re not even DACA at all—they’re just undocumented and couldn’t qualify,” she said.

Haro believes that these students should feel comfortable speaking out about their status.

“I hope somebody steps up and maybe even forms an organization or something to support these types of students and someone to tell them, it’s okay to come out, it’s actually good that you’re coming out,” she said.

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Elise Coombs, a Syracuse native, is the editor-in-chief of the Albany Student Press. She is the co-Vice President of the UAlbany Mock Trial team, a member of Presidential Honors Society, and a peer mentor for the pre-law section of Writing and Critical Inquiry. After her time at UAlbany, she plans to go to law school and become a First Amendment lawyer.

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