97°F
weather icon Clear

Young, undocumented in Las Vegas wait as Trump weighs DACA

Updated March 8, 2017 - 9:37 pm

For nearly 2 million so-called DREAMers — undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children or young teenagers — the initial weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency have been anxious ones.

“Everything I hear puts me on edge,” said Brenda, 22, of Las Vegas, one of the nearly 13,000 Nevada residents who received work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation by signing up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. “Even thinking about doing this interview puts me on edge.”

DREAMers like Brenda, who spoke on condition that she only be identified by her first name out of concern for being targeted, and their advocates say their apprehension has grown amid conflicting signals on immigration and the fate of DACA sent by the new president and his administration.

Trump has backtracked on a campaign promise to end DACA and has hinted he is open to the possibility of a compromise on illegal immigration that could provide permanent legal status to those brought into the country as youngsters by parents or other relatives.

‘A VERY, VERY DIFFICULT SUBJECT’

“DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you,” he said at a Feb. 16 news conference, adding that there are “some absolutely, incredible kids” in the program.

At the same time, he has dramatically expanded immigration enforcement efforts nationwide. And though his executive orders did not roll back DACA, at least two undocumented immigrants who participated in the program have been taken into custody by federal agents in recent weeks.

That has some legal experts urging eligible immigrants to refrain from signing up for DACA, which requires applicants to provide personal information, fingerprints and undergo an extensive background check, until the situation becomes clearer.

“(Applicants) should get their individual situation assessed to weigh the pros and cons and understand the ramifications,” said Amy Rose, legal director of ACLU of Nevada.

Michael Kagan, a UNLV law professor and director of the school’s Immigration Clinic, was more blunt.

“This is not something that someone who is at risk of deportation would want to do because you are essentially telling the Department of Homeland Security, ‘Here I am,’” he said.

That concern has been evident at recent immigrant community events, including one Tuesday at Rancho High School in support of the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide all DREAMers with DACA-like protections that could only be repealed or altered by Congress.


&nsbp;

That event was attended by some DACA participants, but friends with U.S. citizenship spoke on their behalf.

“They are afraid to speak up,” senior Monika Martinez said. “… But, you know what, it’s OK. There are people like me. I’m documented. We will speak for them. We have their full support.”

Astrid Silva of Las Vegas, who has emerged as a national spokeswoman for the DREAMers because of high-profile appearances on behalf of the Democratic Party, said such concerns are understandable given the political climate.

“This administration is like nothing else we have ever seen,” she said by email. “I hope that those who are undocumented and would like to raise their voice feel encouraged to do so, but we also understand that while everyone is subject to immediate deportation thanks to the executive actions … people will choose to not come out.”

DACA DIVISIONS IN GOP

The DACA issue has divided conservatives. Some hard-liners have urged Trump to act on his campaign promises to remove anyone who illegally entered the U.S.

“The administration isn’t being hard-line enough on the DACAs because Trump campaigned saying that DACA was an illegal program and would be ended on day one,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

“I’m not even saying he didn’t believe it when he said it,” added Krikorian, who said he voted for Trump. “It’s just that it sounded good. People cheered, and then he got into office and said, ‘Boy, you know, I don’t know what we’re going to do about this.’ My sense is the White House really hasn’t settled on what they should do about DACA.”

Other Trump supporters, like Tori Alby of Reno and Niger Innis of North Las Vegas, say they agree with the president that the DREAMers deserve special consideration.

DACA participants “need to be protected,” said Alby, spokesperson for the new grass-roots group March4Trump. “They are filling out the paperwork, they are following the procedures in order to be in that program. If they were trying to do ill will, I don’t think that they would.”

“We are incredibly supportive of him waiving DACA recipients,” said Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, “in particular those who have been here for a long period of time, who have not committed any additional crimes since coming to this country and for all intents and purposes are culturally Americans.”

Despite such sentiments, those in DACA remain concerned that Congress and the administration could end the program and revoke their temporary legal status, which must be renewed every two years.

Francisco, another Las Vegas DREAMer, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 2 by his parents, said being undocumented wasn’t a big problem when he was a kid, attending Clark County public schools.

But as he aged, he began to encounter situations where his undocumented status was problematic, such as taking the SAT, applying for college scholarships and getting a driver’s license, all situations where he was asked to supply a Social Security number. He said he began avoiding such rites of passage.

That changed after President Barack Obama enacted DACA in June 2012.

“It was like the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Francisco, who also spoke on condition that he only be identified by his first name out of fear of being targeted, “like you were able to see daylight again, like you were able to breathe. … I could drive freely. I could travel. I could get on an airplane. I could go places and see things.”

With the work permit and protection from deportation it provided, he also was able to pursue the American dream in earnest, earning a bachelor’s degree at UNLV, excelling in his career and last year buying a two-story, 2,500-square-foot home in Las Vegas.

No one can say what would become of his life if the program were to disappear, but immigration attorney Hardeep Sull said a repeal “would be devastating economically for a lot of them and even economically for us.”

‘ONE DAY AT A TIME’

Brenda, who like Francisco came to the United States at the age of 2, said she’s trying to take things “one day at a time, because I don’t know when my last day under DACA will be.”

She said the recent detentions of DACA enrollees in Mississippi and Washington state make her wonder “if that could happen to me for speaking out.” Even her recent DACA renewal was “a very scary situation because I had no guarantee that resubmitting my application was going to protect me if he (Trump) repealed DACA.”

Her renewal came through without a hitch, she said, allowing her to continue with her studies at UNLV and pursue her goal of becoming a high school guidance counselor working with minority and undocumented students.

She wants them to “understand that just because of the color of their skin or where they come from or any other barrier, it doesn’t mean they can’t get an education, and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t strive to be better and to better their lives.”

Contact Lucy Hood at lhood@reviewjournal.com or 702 387-2904. Follow @lucyahood on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
THE LATEST
Target stores across US hit with checkout glitch

A glitch stalled checkout lines at Target stores worldwide Saturday, exasperating shoppers and potentially eating into sales at a prime time for retailers, the day before Fathers Day.