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Immigration Reform Advocates Call For More Protections After SCOTUS Ruling

Local advocates are calling for additional work to protect immigrants after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Thursday ruling to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA provides temporary protections against deportation to people brought to the United States illegally as children. It also allows recipients to work legally and apply for college loans. The high court’s ruling comes as a relief to advocates for immigration reform in Northeast Ohio.

“We’ve seen so many of our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends get hauled away into detention centers across the country through these very aggressive immigration policies,” said HOLA Ohio Executive Director Veronica Dahlberg. “We were worried that the Dreamers, that is, our immigrant youth, were going to be exposed to that future as well.”

At the same time, Dahlberg said, DACA only applies to a limited number of people, and her group’s work is not done.

“We need to address immigration reform, it’s time, it’s been many decades,” Dahlberg said. “And the solution is not building more prisons.”

Issues such as detainment camps and the complicated path to citizenship need to be addressed, Dahlberg said.

“Dreamers are part of our American family, but DACA is not sufficient,” Dahlberg said. “DACA, to me, I always look at it like a tourniquet that stopped a lot of damage from getting worse.”

The Supreme Court ruling, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, says the Trump administration would have to follow certain administrative procedures to end the DACA program. But lawmakers can put more permanent protections in place for Dreamers, said Cleveland immigration attorney Elizabeth Ford.

“That gives them some peace of mind for the moment, but there’s still need for a long-term solution,” Ford said.

The ruling is a glimmer of hope for immigration advocates, Ford said, but the Trump administration has created additional barriers that still need to be addressed.

“Unfortunately, there’s been so much damage done to people who are undocumented, people who are intending immigrants,” Ford said.

DACA recipients often have little to no connection with the country they immigrated from, said immigration attorney Kim Alabasi.

“Their whole lives are in the United States,” Alabasi said. “And the panic and the worry that they’ve been going through over the past couple years about whether their livelihood would continue or not has been really horrible.”

Alabasi hopes the Court’s ruling leads to more compassionate and inclusive steps in immigration policy, she said.

“So that these people are no longer living in this kind of limbo day after day, wondering if they’ll be able to live here permanently and maybe someday become citizens,” Alabasi said.

Cleveland City Council also issued a statement in support of the Supreme Court ruling.

“We know this diversity makes us a stronger community. And these young people are an important part of that community,” the statement said. “We must remain vigilant and lobby for a permanent fix by Congress to ensure there’s not attempt another attempt on DACA.”

Between 4,000 and 5,000 DACA recipients live in Ohio.

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