Update, Jan. 10, 2018, 4:42 p.m.: A federal judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California blocked President Trump’s phased-in termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA, pending the outcome of legal challenges. Judge William Alsup wrote that DACA recipients would suffer “irreparable harm” as they lose DACA protections. It’s unclear how federal officials will handle DACA renewal applications they rejected for failing to meet an Oct. 5 deadline. A Department of Justice statement said the department will defend the termination, calling DACA an “unlawful circumvention of Congress,” and a White House statement called on Congress to find a solution.
PORTERVILLE, Calif. — Luis Galvan, 20, enjoyed a moment of triumph in late October when he boarded a plane for the first time and flew to Indianapolis to receive his Future Farmers of America degree, a prestigious certificate of achievement in the world of agriculture. Galvan was proud that all his grueling work with livestock and crops had paid off.
But his euphoria was short-lived.
When Galvan got home he tore open an envelope waiting for him from the Department of Homeland Security. It was crushing news: He had submitted his application to renew a vital work permit for young immigrants known as “Dreamers” in plenty of time, along with a renewal fee. He received a notice back that there was a snafu over a $495 scholarship check he had submitted to pay the fee, and he promptly followed instructions to correct that. But now, this second, final notice told him his application was rejected for being late.
If Galvan can’t appeal the rejection, his work permit is set to expire Jan. 15. That would jeopardize his job tutoring junior high kids. It would affect his studies at college. It could even lead to him being deported.
“What a bucket of cold water,” Galvan said, during a late-night interview in Porterville, the small California farm city where he grew up.
Surrounded by a sea of orchards—including oranges now flooding U.S. markets—Porterville sits in California’s vast Central Valley. Considered one of the world’s most productive agribusiness regions, the valley depends on immigrant labor. And among those who represent the region in Congress are multiple Republican lawmakers, not least of them Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the powerful GOP majority leader whose district includes Porterville.
The work permit Galvan holds stems from his status as a recipient of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program whose fate rests, in no small part, in McCarthy’s hands.
Former President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 to allow undocumented young people brought to the United States as children to stay legally, conditionally, until, Obama said he hoped, Congress came up with a solution to help them. Nicknamed Dreamers, this population has no sure path to legal residency, no matter how long they’ve been here or how much they accomplish. DACA has temporarily protected them from deportation and allowed them to obtain work permits. On Sept. 5 though, President Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the plug on DACA, arguing in a statement that Obama lacked authority to create the program and that policy should be “fair to American families, students, taxpayers and jobseekers.” Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that unemployed Americans could possibly assume DACA recipients’ jobs.