Author Archives: Richard Irwin

Senate Sharply Rebukes Trump’s Ploy to Use Dreamers as a Pawn

February 15, 2018

Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Senate Sharply Rebukes Trump’s Ploy to Use Dreamers as a Pawn

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate today did not cast enough votes to approve any proposal to solve the crisis created by President Trump’s decision to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Of the four amendments put up for a vote, one that mirrored President Trump’s proposal received the least support, with only 39 votes. The bipartisan USA Act, sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Christopher Coons (D-DE), garnered majority support but fell shy of the 60 votes needed to move forward.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Despite the good-faith efforts of many on both sides of the aisle, we still don’t have a fix for Dreamers — and that’s on President Trump. Trump dragged us into this crisis when he ended DACA. And he has consistently been the barrier standing in the way of a solution.

“Congress has put forward numerous bipartisan proposals, including some that were voted on today. This was Trump’s opportunity to get the deal he’s been saying he wants.

“Instead of working toward a compromise, he and his band of anti-immigrant extremists tacked on to a proposal that lawmakers from both parties resoundingly rebuked. His veto threat today killed any chance at a bipartisan solution before senators even voted. This and his equivocating and destructive actions over the past months confirm that he’s never been serious about resolving this crisis of his own making. It’s clear that to Trump, Dreamers are just a pawn to enact his white supremacist agenda.

“Republican and Democratic members of Congress alike need to stand up and reject these political games. Dreamers urgently need you to act. The onus is still on you to enact a narrowly tailored, bipartisan solution. It’s not only what Americans want, it’s the right thing to do.

“For now, the courts have stepped in — as they’ve done time and again in ruling against the Trump administration over the past year — to protect our communities and provide some relief from this administration’s unlawful actions, even if only temporarily. But make no mistake, DACA recipients continue to lose protections every day and will start doing so at an accelerated rate come March 5. The need for a permanent solution hasn’t changed.

“This is a difficult moment, but we are strong and resolute in our mission. We will continue to fight alongside immigrant youth and our allies — in the courts, in Washington, and with communities across the country — to secure a real solution for immigrant youth.”



Rounds-King Immigration Proposal Would Harm More Than Help Our Communities

February 15, 2018

Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Rounds-King Immigration Proposal Would Harm More Than Help Our Communities

WASHINGTON — During an ongoing immigration debate, senators in Washington will consider an amendment that would provide a fix for Dreamers, but in exchange punish their parents, undermine due process in immigration courts, provide exorbitant funding to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, and create a damaging precedent that would pave the way toward criminalizing immigrant communities and families.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“President Trump created a crisis when he ended DACA, and he has perpetuated it at every turn with his equivocating and destructive actions and comments — even as recently as this morning. As we’ve said all along, we need Congress to enact a narrowly tailored solution to secure the future of immigrant youth, without putting families at risk or bending to whims of anti-immigrant extremists. This proposal, while a good faith effort on the parts of many to come to a compromise that works, unfortunately falls short.

“The legalization provisions in this proposal are a true testament to relentless organizing, advocacy, and power built up by immigrant youth and allies over years. That they are a result of a bipartisan negotiation is truly remarkable and a reason to be hopeful that we can find a permanent solution for Dreamers.

“However, on balance, this proposal is outside the bounds of what is acceptable. It would inject billions of dollars into a nonsensical border wall and increase the number of border agents without much-needed responsibility or oversight for agents emboldened since Trump’s election. Moreover, it doesn’t begin to address the real needs of border communities. It would fundamentally alter key parts of our immigration system, harm immigrant families for generations, and leave us with a damaging precedent to fight against for years to come.

“After 16 years of advocating for a solution for immigrant youth, we will not give up now. We continue to believe in the urgency of a legislative solution, which is why we support the carefully crafted bipartisan USA Act introduced by Senators Coons and McCain. We will continue to fight on every front to ensure that immigrant youth have a secure future in this country.”



Dreamers Are Trailblazers for Their Families and Communities (The Torch)

Dreamers are trailblazers for their families and communities

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Guadalupe Estrada, guest blogger, and NILC staff
FEBRUARY 15, 2018

“I am bold enough to say, ‘You need me.’” (Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Estrada.)

My name is Guadalupe. I feel blessed to tell my story because my story is not about circumstances; my story is about me.

I’m the kind of individual who has recognized that in order to help others, I must help myself. My parents’ separation led to both financial and emotional instabilities, but it did not deter my efforts to self-sustain. I pay for my own education and bills. I sign my own lease and responsibly manage my debts. I know the value I possess in the eyes of potential employers, and I am bold enough to say, “You need me.”

I’m studying mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University. Being the oldest, I thought no one but me would aspire to such an improbable feat. “Undocumented women studying engineering” is not a common theme in my family. But, interestingly enough, now it is. Now my sisters light up when they say, “I wanna be a doctor!” And my two undocumented sisters want to attend A&M, too.

When we don’t encourage just one child, like me — first-generation and low-income — we are discouraging an entire community of trailblazers from molding the very landscape of our everyday life. We need them, but this story is about me, nonetheless. It’s about the 20-year-old girl who might not be able to afford her school coming this spring 2018 but has made up her mind.

She’s the undocumented woman studying mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University, and she’s quite willing to share her story to help herself be the conscientious leader the world demands.

Guadalupe Estrada is a mechanical engineering student and DACA recipient from Houston, Texas.

♦ ♦ ♦

THE DECISION BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION to end the DACA program without first having a solution in place for otherwise DACA-eligible youth has put America’s future at risk. A majority of voters in swing districts across the country believe that ending the DACA program was the wrong thing to do. Guadalupe is a good example of how significant it would be to lose an entire generation of talented and motivated people because they can no longer live, work, or study in the U.S.

Like Guadalupe, 72 percent of DACA recipients who are currently in school are working toward a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 94 percent say that because of DACA they were able to pursue educational opportunities that they could not have pursued previously. Congress has an opportunity to choose a stronger future for the United States by creating a permanent solution for these young immigrants who’ve been so committed to improving themselves and their communities.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Guadalupe, visit And you can do more: Call Congress at 1-478-488-8059 and insist that your senators and representatives support and vote for the bipartisan Dream Act now!


Fourth Circuit Decision Affirms What We Know: The Muslim Ban Is Immoral and Unconstitutional

February 15, 2018

Hayley Burgess,, 202-805-0375

Fourth Circuit Decision Affirms What We Know: The Muslim Ban Is Immoral and Unconstitutional

RICHMOND, VA — The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today affirming that one of the latest iterations of President Trump’s Muslim ban, which indefinitely bans people from six Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States, is unconstitutional.

The civil rights lawsuit in which the decision was issued was filed by the National Immigration Law Center, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the ACLU on behalf organizations that provide services to refugees, American Muslim community organizations, and affected individuals. This case was consolidated with other civil rights challenges against the Muslim ban.

Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“While this administration has enacted several versions of the ban, what has stayed the same is that the courts, once again, have said what we know to be true — that a Muslim ban in any form is unconstitutional and stands in stark contrast to the values we hold dear as a nation.

“We will not sit idly by as this administration continues its racist and hateful attacks on immigrant and refugee communities. We know that as a result of this ban, families are being torn apart every day. We continue to stand proudly with our plaintiffs, refugees, and American Muslim communities to fight inside and outside the courtroom until there is no Muslim ban ever.”



It’s February, and I’m Undocumented Again (The Torch)

It’s February, and I’m undocumented again

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Kelly Guapacha, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 14, 2018

Back in September, everyone around me was in a panic.

Trump had just announced the end of DACA, the program that has allowed me and so many of my peers to live the way we know we should be able to — as young Americans, going to school and building a career.

At that point, I didn’t have time to worry. I was way too busy with work and school to let the fear get to me. My renewal was right around the corner, set for November, and I had no reason to believe there would be any issue with my application.

Kelly Guapacha

Now it’s February, and I’m undocumented again.

An immigration attorney I was working with forgot to include the expiration date of my DACA on the renewal form, and I received a notice that I needed to resubmit. Although I fixed it and sent it back as soon as I got the notification, I was told it was too late. My stomach dropped. Given how much DACA has meant for my life, this felt like a major setback.

The year I first received DACA was monumental for me. I graduated high school, got a work permit, and was paying my way through my first year of college.

I’ve always had dreams to travel beyond my hometown, and through my school I applied for a semester abroad program in Florence, Italy. I was studying fashion merchandising and small business management at the time, and it was huge for me to be able to be fully immersed in my studies halfway around the world.

Without DACA, that would have been a pipe dream.

Three years later, I have an associate’s degree in fine arts and I’m proud to say that I just finished studying to become a medical assistant and have started an externship at a nearby facility to complete my certificate. In just a few weeks, I should be able to pursue a full-time job in the field and be able to focus on building my life.

But it’s February, and I’m undocumented. Even though I’ve finished my studies, I can’t move forward without DACA.

I am one of nearly 20,000 DACA recipients who have already lost protection. Like them, I do not want to go back into the shadows. That’s not who I am. But it’s been three months since I lost my work permit through DACA, and my driver’s license is about to expire.

The situation is more urgent now, but I have not lost hope.

I know I’m not wealthy. I’m a hardworking American struggling to make my way, just like so many others. But I own cars, I’ve taken out insurance policies, I have a degree, and I’m pursuing a career. Even just on a practical level, I can’t understand why the government would want to throw me out. This isn’t just about me and others in my situation; it’s about what’s best for the country.

So it’s hard not to take it personally. I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to make someone feel the way the government is making me feel. I’ve always had big dreams. I’m bright and ambitious. I’ve lived in New Jersey since I was five years old. I consider myself an American.

We’re all here more or less for the same reason — to work hard and pursue the American Dream. I’m grateful, but I still feel so limited. Life without DACA isn’t impossible, but it sure is a lot more challenging. I know it doesn’t need to be that way.

What I am asking is for Congress to make the simple, easy choice to let me finish my certificate program and become a medical assistant. I am asking to be able to wake up every morning and drive to work so that I can finish paying my tuition and be able to afford my rent every month.

I don’t pretend to know the legal ins and outs of why I may be yanked away from life as I know it. I don’t have time to follow the politics of how my future plays into the agendas of politicians in Washington. I don’t have the resources or schedule that would allow me to protest or visit my senator and convince him to do the right thing.

Like other Americans, I have put my faith in Congress to do their job so that I can continue to do mine.

Kelly Guapacha is training to be a medical assistant and is a DACA recipient from Dover, New Jersey.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Kelly, visit And you can do more: Call Congress at 1-478-488-8059 and insist that your senators and representatives support and vote for the bipartisan Dream Act now!


A Dreamer Whose Contributions Help Drive America (The Torch)

A Dreamer Whose Contributions Help Drive America

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Jhonatan Ferrer, guest blogger, and NILC staff
FEBRUARY 13, 2018

I came to the United States when I was eleven. I was unaware that I was undocumented until I was around thirteen. I did not understand at the time the implications this would have in my life. But I have come to learn that it affects me greatly.

Before DACA I was unable to work as an engineer, and I did not have access to health care or even student loans. However, with DACA I have been able to work towards a better future. Now I work as an engineer for the automotive industry.

“Chances are that if you drive Ford or GM vehicle, you have an HVAC system designed by me and my team.” (Photo courtesy of Jhonatan Ferrer.)

Chances are that if you drive a Ford or GM vehicle you have an HVAC system designed by me and my team. I have even completed my graduate degree in aerospace engineering. I have bought a house, and I support my family financially, including helping pay for my sister’s college tuition.

I think that DACA has changed my future greatly. I look forward to the Dream Act or similar comprehensive immigration reform being passed in Congress. This will assure that the protections I have under DACA are maintained and that I get to contribute to society as much as I can.

Jhonatan Ferrer is an automotive engineer, small business owner, and DACA recipient from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

♦  ♦  ♦

SINCE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION terminated the DACA program, over 19,000 DACA recipients like Jhonatan have lost their protected status. Each day that Congress fails to pass a legislative solution for these bright and talented individuals, 122 DACA recipients lose their protected status. And starting March 5 when the program is slated to end, about 1,000 DACA recipients will lose their protected status daily.

These immigrant youths are America’s children — they are doctors, engineers, first responders, military servicemembers, and vital to our communities and families. DACA recipients also contribute greatly to our economy every day.

Jhonatan works in the automotive industry, revolutionizing the cars we drive. When his DACA expires, he will lose the ability to provide for his family, and America’s automotive industry will lose a talented engineer.

But this doesn’t have to be Jhonatan’s, or the country’s, fate. Eighty-seven percent of Americans support allowing DACA recipients to remain in the U.S., and 80 percent of likely voters in swing district believe Congress should protect them from deportation. It’s long past due for Congress to act.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Jhonatan, visit And you can do more: call Congress at 1-478-488-8059 and insist that your senators and representatives support and vote for the bipartisan Dream Act now!


New York Dreamers Obtain Ruling Halting DACA Termination

February 13, 2018

• Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center,, 213-375-3149
• Daniel Altschuler, Make the Road New York,, 917-494-5922
• Susanna Evarts, Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, Yale Law School,, 207-653-9499

New York Dreamers Obtain Ruling Halting DACA Termination

NEW YORK — New York Dreamers secured a significant victory today against the Trump administration’s unlawful termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). A federal district court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction to stop the Trump administration from terminating the DACA policy. The ruling is the second to enjoin the rescission of DACA.

“Today’s ruling gives hope to me and Dreamers around the country,” said Eliana Fernandez, plaintiff and DACA beneficiary who is a member of Make the Road New York. “Unlike Trump and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, the court has shown that it understands our common humanity — that we’ve lived in this country and contributed to it for many years, that elected officials cannot hatefully attack us with impunity. Dreamers and our families are here to stay.”

“This administration is not above the law,” explained Laura Kokotailo, a law student intern in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. “The court’s ruling recognizes the ‘staggering’ human costs of terminating DACA, and properly ruled that the government’s proffered reasons were internally inconsistent and simply unjustified.”

The injunction was obtained in Batalla-Vidal v. Nielsen, the first case brought to challenge the DACA termination. This injunction requires the Trump administration to accept and review DACA renewal applications after the court found the government failed to explain or justify changing that policy, which affects close to 700,000 individuals and indirectly affects countless more.

The plaintiffs and allies across the country continue to organize outside the courtroom for the passage of a clean Dream Act that would provide permanent protection.

“While this decision allows DACA recipients to apply for renewal of deferred action under DACA, we still need Congress to act,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center. “Young people who have lived almost their entire lives in the United States, and who are contributing to their communities, schools, and employers, are an integral part of the fabric of our country. They need a permanent and narrow solution to the problem President Trump created by terminating DACA.”

The Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen case was brought by six New York Dreamers and Make the Road New York on behalf of its members, employees, clients, and itself. The plaintiffs are represented by Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and Make the Road New York (MRNY).

Today’s order is available at



We Hope for an American Future (The Torch)

We hope for an American future

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Tim Sell, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 12, 2018

When an Ethiopian boy effectively arrived on our rural central Maryland doorstep as a one-year-old, my wife and I chose to do the right thing.

Prior to our first meeting, our Ethiopian boy was brought to America for emergency surgery by a missionary sponsored by our church. He received excellent care from the kind folks at the University of Maryland and Ronald McDonald House, both of which provided their services free of charge. His ventricular septal defect was corrected, and he has not had a single problem with his heart since.

“So began our journey of learning the bumpy road of immigration in America.”
Photo courtesy of Tim Sell

It was after he recovered from the surgery that we learned of the boy’s mother’s desire that he stay in America. She wanted a better life for him. Our church solicited volunteers for a sponsor family. My wife eagerly volunteered, and I somewhat hesitantly agreed. We were both naive.

So began our journey of learning the bumpy road of immigration in America.

My wife and I were able legally to adopt the five-year-old Ethiopian boy in Maryland. It seemed odd to us that it was legally possible to adopt him, despite it being legally impossible for him to obtain U.S. citizenship — but adoption was at least a step in the right direction.

The legal adoption status served us well in terms of his education, as it allowed our son to attend grade school in Maryland. We could forget about the “immigration problem” for a few years. “Surely the politicians will be able to come up with a reasonable solution by the time he grows up,” we thought.

As our son became a teenager, we realized that simple things that other teenagers take for granted, such as getting his driver’s license or a part-time job, were going to be impossible for him.

Here’s a phrase we’ve heard from an immigration attorney more than once: “He can’t be here.”

But we can pay for the paperwork, we’re willing to navigate through any bureaucracy you throw at us, he’s our legally adopted son, he doesn’t even remember any other country besides America, and doesn’t want any more than what any other American boy wants….

“He can’t be here. He can’t be here.

In 2014, we learned about DACA from an immigration attorney. DACA seemed to be what we had been waiting for for 16 years. The politicians seemed to be “figuring it out”! Thanks to DACA, later that year, at 17, our son received a Social Security number and an employment authorization card.

It saddened me, though, to learn that he was ashamed/afraid to reveal his immigration status to his friends in high school. He said it was common for him to hear kids talking harshly about “illegals” and about how they needed to be sent “home.” I tried to calmly explain to him that revealing his situation to them might provide them with a more educated and moral view of the situation. But I understood his rationale in keeping quiet. I still remember being 17 — I just wanted to “fit in.” Our son was no different.

At 17, our son wanted to become an American soldier. Due to his immigration status, he was turned away. It turned out that not even DACA could help him with that dream.

At 18, thanks to the privileges provided by DACA, our son was able to get part-time jobs working construction and at restaurants. Like any American teenager with a part-time job, he paid his taxes, with Dad’s help filling out the forms.

At 19 — fear. Will DACA end tomorrow? Will ICE agents be knocking our door down? Our own American government wouldn’t forcibly send a law-abiding citizen to a strange country … would it?

At 20, our son wants to study health fitness and physical education at college. He dreams of becoming a fitness instructor or phys. ed. teacher. DACA makes that dream possible. We can even hope for something better. We hope for an American future where one day he may even be a “legal United States citizen.”

Tim Sell is an American dad from central Maryland.

The decision by the Trump administration to abruptly end DACA without having any permanent solution in place for the young people who have benefited or would benefit from the program is hurting families, such as the Sell family, all over the United States. A recent poll shows that a majority of American voters feels that families are at the core of the United States as a nation and are more likely to support an immigration deal if it is based in keeping families together. 

Learn more about what you can do to help immigrant youth and their families, visit or call Congress at 478-488-8059 and ask them to vote on the bipartisan Dream Act now!


New Rules Would Separate Immigrant Families and Keep Them from Accessing Critical Services

February 8, 2018

Hayley Burgess,, 202-805-0375

Department of Homeland Security Plans New Rules That Would Separate Immigrant Families and Keep Them from Accessing Critical Services

WASHINGTON — Reuters today reported that the Trump administration is considering proposed rules that would further target immigrants seeking critical care and social services, making it even harder for them to attain permanent legal status.

This cruel shift in policy would not only form a barrier for families seeking to reunite with their loved ones, but would also keep them from seeking critical services, such as education, nutrition, and medical assistance. Under current law, lawfully present immigrants are already barred from accessing almost all federal benefits for the first five years they are in the country, and undocumented immigrants face this bar no matter how many years they reside in the US.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The changes the Trump administration is considering would radically reshape our legal immigration system and redefine who is ‘worthy’ of being an American, along with what we look like as a country. If enacted, the draft proposed rule would fundamentally alter our nation’s values toward our immigration system. No longer would we be the country that serves as a beacon for the world’s dreamers and strivers. Instead, America’s doors would be open only to the highest bidder.

“This rule could have the effect of forcing low-income immigrant families — including U.S. citizen children — to make impossible choices between having the resources they need to thrive and reuniting with loved ones. It’s clear that this is nothing more than a backdoor effort to severely limit family immigration, which is part of the White House legislative framework. Those who have entered the U.S. through close family ties are disproportionately people of color, and U.S. citizen children will be among the most harmed by this proposal.

“If we want our communities to thrive, all families must be able to receive the critical care and services they need. All of us — regardless of where we were born or how much money we have — should reject these extremist proposals that are morally reprehensible and fly in the face of our nation’s values and priorities.

“Our nation’s history — and, indeed, most of our own personal histories — are full of stories of immigrants who came here with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a dream of a better future in the United States. These immigrants were able to have the tools they needed to succeed. Today’s low-income immigrant families are tomorrow’s teachers, nurses, and even a future president.”



Immigrant Youth and Allies Call on House Democrats to Lead Because “Our Lives and the Morals of This Country Are at Stake”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

National Immigration Law Center (NILC)

Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Indivisible Project

United We Dream
Bruna Bouhid,, 202-850-0812
Sheridan Aguirre,, 202-793-226

Immigrant Youth and Allies Call on House Democrats to Lead Because “Our Lives and the Morals of This Country Are at Stake”

WASHINGTON — After months of hearing from millions of Americans in support of a permanent solution for Dreamers, Congress today is considering a two-year budget deal that does not address the crisis created when President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September.

Lawmakers have repeatedly vowed to find a permanent solution to end the uncertainty and instability created by the Trump administration’s termination of DACA but have failed to exert the sustained political will to deliver. This squandered opportunity is not only another failure to deliver on their word, it’s a choice to be complicit in the detention and deportation of Dreamers. Any member of Congress who votes for a budget deal without securing protections for immigrant youth — Republicans and Democrats alike — will be voting to advance Trump’s white supremacist agenda. We will not forget.

For more than a year, President Trump and his administration have waged an attack on immigrants, refugees and communities of color. Immigrant youth and immigrant families, despite the excruciating uncertainty of these trying times, are leading a courageous fight to assert our communities’ humanity, dignity, and power, and our rightful claim to be acknowledged for our contributions and feel secure at home. We need leaders in Congress to act with courage, too.

Speeches, photo ops, and gestures won’t cut it. We urgently need a narrowly-tailored solution that addresses the crisis Trump created, without putting families at risk or reducing people’s lives to a bargaining chip. We need the bipartisan Dream Act now.