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Reaction to DACA decision in Las Vegas Valley is muted

Rafael Lopez has come a long way since he received a notice of deportation at 15.

Lopez, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, graduated from UNLV, works in a job he loves and also owns a car. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, he said.

“DACA is a Band-Aid,” said Lopez, 28, of Las Vegas, referring to the fact that it provides no permanent protection to participants. “While having DACA is not a solution to my problem, I’m really grateful to have this form of protection.”

The Trump administration on Thursday issued a memorandum affirming that DACA participants like Lopez, will continue to reap the benefits of the program, which include work authorizations that must be renewed every two years. Though the White House and Department of Homeland Security both clarified Friday that the administration is continuing to review the program.

DACA, established in 2012 through an executive order by President Barack Obama, allows undocumented immigrants in the United States who entered the country before their 16th birthday to receive a work permit and a temporary exemption from potential deportation.

‘A small ray of light’

Lopez, who works as a regional field director for an environmental justice organization in Las Vegas, called the new memo a “small ray of light.”

“After months of constant bad news, and different changes in the memos happening in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it’s a sign of relief, for me,” he said. “Without my deferred action, I wouldn’t be able to be working where I am now, helping to run the organization I am currently managing.”

Arlene Amarante, legal fellow for the Immigration Clinic at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, called the announcement a “small glimmer of hope,” but added that she’s not optimistic that DACA will survive in the longer term.

“They’re saying we’re not going to do anything about this right now, but there’s no promise this will be left in place forever,” she said. “It can absolutely be taken away (by) … the current president if he changes his mind.”

Amarante said she also was not surprised that the memorandum rescinded DAPA — a program similar to DACA that protected undocumented parents with children who were either U.S. residents or lawful permanent residents. Once federal courts blocked its implementation last year, she said, the demise of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program was pretty much a given.

“I don’t know after Nov. 8 (2016), that were there any families that had any kind of illusions that DAPA would ever come into effect,” she said. “This was largely symbolic.”

The view of the memorandum from the other side of the national political divide over immigration was likewise measured.

Trump supporter cheers move

Jacob Deaville, president of the UNLV College Republicans, said he was pleased with the decision to rescind DAPA, saying that President Donald Trump was “putting immigration law back in the hands of Congress.”

“I think President Trump has fulfilled more promises in the last few months he’s been in office compared to what other presidents have done in their entire tenure,” he said.

While DACA remains in place, Deaville is confident Trump will revisit it.

“DACA is an issue we can resolve when our border is secured,” he said.

Terry Ochal, communications director for Turning Point USA and associate chief of staff for the Clark County Republican party, said Thursday’s action on DAPA and DACA did not stir strong feelings. He said he’s watching closely to see if Trump keeps his campaign promise by building a wall on the southern U.S. border.

“I don’t believe Republicans will fare well in midterm elections if construction doesn’t begin by 2018 and Donald Trump won’t fare well in 2020 if it isn’t built by then,” Ochal said.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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