Category Archives: Uncategorized

Allowed to Finally Shine (The Torch)

Allowed to finally shine

By Fatima Ahmed, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 23, 2018

My name is Fatima. I am 30 years old and have lived almost my entire life as undocumented in the United States. My mother immigrated from Bangladesh to New York when I was a year and a half old.

“I am lucky to have always known what my passion is, and DACA allowed me the opportunity to pursue it.” (Photo courtesy of Fatima Ahmed.)

I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology summa cum laude. Since DACA did not exist when I attended college, I was not able to pay for school with scholarships or aid, even though I would have been an ideal candidate. Instead, I went to school full-time, while also working various odd jobs full-time to pay for tuition. I interned part-time at prestigious museums and fashion houses, knowing that I would never be able to work at those institutions unless I could gain status. I had to turn down dream jobs because I could not be legally paid. While I was a bright student and beloved by notable figures in my university, I had no prospect of furthering my passion in design.

Once I had DACA, my whole life changed. I was immediately hired by Peter Marino Architects, a world-renowned interior design and architecture firm. I was allowed to finally shine at what I studied to do. DACA gave me the opportunity to work in my field, becoming well known in the New York City interior design world before becoming a small business owner of a growing textile company. However, I had been held back in my career, since I was not able to travel. Most of my work is with international clients.

In my personal life, I had not seen my father in 12 years because his quality of life suffered too much as an undocumented immigrant, so he moved back to Bangladesh. He passed away several months ago, and I was not able to see or be with him, since I couldn’t travel then. This caused me an immense amount of grief.

I’ve lived in this country my whole life. My entire family is here. I am an active member of my community. I volunteer in charities, I pay federal taxes, I contribute to the American economy in numerous ways. I know no one in Bangladesh and have no roots or ties there. I am lucky to have always known what my passion is, and DACA allowed me the opportunity to pursue it.

In 2014, I married my husband, a U.S. citizen, and applied for adjustment of status. Just this past September, after waiting three years, I finally received my green card. Unfortunately, most people with DACA will not be able to adjust their status this way and will need action from Congress.

I’ve lost a lot in my life due to my undocumented status. I have also gained a lot in my life due to DACA. Like me, people who have DACA want to contribute to this country that they call home, but they can’t if they’re not treated as full members of society. Many bright futures that benefit the United States will be lost a permanent solution is created for DACA recipients.

Fatima Ahmed is a designer and former DACA recipient from Sunnyside, New York.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Fatima, visit www.nilc.org. 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!

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This Little Piece of Freedom to Be Almost Normal, Like My Peers (The Torch)

This little piece of freedom to be almost normal, like my peers

By Shahrzad, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 22, 2018

My family applied for visitor visas in the early ’90s, and by 1996 we were granted a visa to come visit my grandparents in Chicago from India. It was a really big deal for my family, and the fact that I hadn’t seen my grandparents in three to four years only added to the excitement.

Once we got here, my grandparents felt strongly that my siblings and I would get a better education in the USA and convinced my parents to leave us here to be raised by them. My parents went back to India, and my siblings and I were left behind in pursuit of higher education and a better life.

I was a sophomore in high school when I first realized that I didn’t have a nine-digit Social Security number and therefore my options were super limited. Unlike in Latino communities, where there is a bit more openness regarding one’s status, in Indian (South Asian) communities there is nothing but fear and stigma.

I never told any of my friends that I was undocumented. I always made an excuse as to why I was not planning to go to college or why I couldn’t apply for certain jobs like my peers. In my senior year, I finally confided in one of my high school teachers, and she was able to find sources for me to be able to go to college.

I’d attended one semester of art school when 9/11 happened. All of a sudden, the school started questioning my immigration status, and I had to drop out. It was the worst feeling to know that I couldn’t continue with my education. I went into deep depression and started self-medicating through alcohol and partying.

A few years later, I finally got myself together and went back to school. I started in community college and took one class at a time. I was able to get my associate’s in 2008. I applied to four-year university to get my bachelor’s in sociology. Toward the last semester of school, I started getting depressed and feeling anxious that even after getting a degree I would continue to work at a dead-end job.

However, that summer President Obama announced DACA. It changed my life. I finally was able to hope and plan for my future. As soon as DACA came out, I applied and was granted approval to be able to work. It has been five years since I got DACA; I will be renewing it in the next few weeks. Having DACA connected me with a job I love. My income went from living paycheck to paycheck to something substantial. I purchased my first car earlier this year, I have health insurance through my work, and I can travel within the USA. The feeling to be able to travel even within the USA is a small freedom, but it’s everything I can ask for: This little piece of freedom to be almost normal, like my peers.

But most importantly — this is gonna sound crazy — but I love paying income taxes. I love taking my shoe box to H&R Block and doing my taxes every year. It confirms my belief that I am a contributing member of this country. And, yes, sometimes as a DACAmented youth it feels like “taxation without representation,” but it is still something that allows me to be part of this country.

I belong here. I don’t remember anything about India except what I hear from my family members who get to visit or still live there. My Hindi is terrible, my sense of independence and feminism too strong that I know, if I am to go back, I will not survive in a culture/country I no longer belong to.

“Shahrzad” is a pseudonym. She is a DACA recipient from Chicago.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Shahrzad, visit www.nilc.org. 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!

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Anywhere We Are Planted We Are Capable of Blooming (The Torch)

Anywhere we are planted we are capable of blooming

By Abigail, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 21, 2018

I am a Jamaican-born, American-raised, Black-immigrant woman. Before President Obama’s executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I was what you’d consider an undocumented immigrant. In some respects, I still am. Why? Because President Trump has ended DACA.

I strongly believe anywhere we are planted we are capable of blooming. As a child living in Jamaica, I had to walk five miles each day just to get clean water to drink and bathe. Every day was a struggle. I remember at the age of nine coming from school and immediately going to the river to get water for my grandmother to cook. Though I knew how tiring and exhausting my walk to get water or to go to school would be, that never stopped me. I lived in a one-bedroom house made of board and zinc, with a poorly covered outside bathroom. Although I had to grow up early in order to help my family, I consider the hardships of my early life an important source of my strong work ethic today.

Days before my twelfth birthday, I was brought to America. I consider my arrival to America my flight to make a difference in the world. When I arrived, it was not what I envisioned. We lived in a neighborhood that was dangerous and infested with gangbangers. It was a crime-driven neighborhood. Staying after school for club meetings and activities meant that I had to walk home by myself each day, even at night, but I never backed down from those challenges.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I found out that I was classified as an undocumented immigrant. Finding this out in high school was challenging, because at that time I was excelling in academics and sports. I became ashamed of my undocumented status. I did not want to be identified or answer any questions about being at the top of my class, yet not applying to college. I did not tell anyone I was undocumented until my senior year. I remember closing my counselor’s door and disclosing my information to him. I felt like a criminal. But I am not a criminal.

After I told my counselor, he introduced me to many groups around campus that supported undocumented immigrants. He told me I could still go to college, but there were so many barriers because I was not eligible for financial aid. There were many support groups for undocumented immigrants, but there were no Jamaicans in those groups. My minority status was further pronounced, as not one person in those awareness groups looked like me. As I sought out scholarships, they did not apply to me, as they were mostly for Latinos. Most of my days and nights were spent researching scholarships. The only thing that kept me going was my faith in God.

I must have applied for over fifty scholarships. Nonetheless, I received an academic scholarship from a small university, which made my transition to college more affordable. While in college, I wanted nothing to do with undocumented immigrants. It was a part of me that I hid from many people. I never disclosed it to any of my friends. Even though I was doing internships, researching resources for undocumented immigrants, I never included myself as a case study. At this time, the DREAM Act was on its way to becoming a law, but it failed, falling eight votes short. It was then I realized that I could not wait on others.

During the last year of my undergraduate education, former President Obama gave young immigrants who were brought to this country [as children] an opportunity to be free from deportation. I remember sitting at home and tears falling from my eyes because I knew it meant that I could legally work in the country that I consider my home. President Obama’s plan meant that I could drive, and have proper identification. However, the work is not done; the deferred action of DACA is merely a two-year stint. There is still work to be done.

After I graduated from my undergraduate institution, I pursued my master’s in public policy at another prestigious university. I graduated at the top of my class. Immediately after graduation, I started working with an underserved community. After working in that community for a few months, I was promoted to a leadership role where I currently manage individuals who want to work in underserved communities.

With President Trump’s presidency, my work is not done. My passion to serve in education is connected to my passion to serve the undocumented community. Undocumented students grow up with legal access to public education, but they face legal barriers to higher education. A small number make it to college on scholarships and private loans, but they are in the shadows of their peers because they are afraid to reveal their undocumented status. Therefore, they are not in the forefront — silenced by their own fears and deterred by legal barriers. I am not a criminal; I am well educated and making a positive difference in the United States — like millions of immigrants in our history.

“Abigail” is a pseudonym. Abigail is a DACA recipient living in Delaware.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Abigail, visit www.nilc.org. 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!

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We Are Not Afraid (The Torch)

We are not afraid

By Gloria Mendoza, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 20, 2018

Like most of my fellow Dreamers, I did not understand what being “illegal” meant until I started applying for higher education.

I graduated high school the summer of 2008 and quickly realized that my dreams of being a college graduate were at risk because of something I didn’t completely understand. Against all odds, I put myself through college. I worked 40-hour weeks as a server, under terrible conditions and with no hourly pay. I went to a private university; with scholarships and full support from my professors, I graduated in 2012.

“I have watched in horror and despair as my community gets terrorized by the current administration, and although it is hard and overwhelming at times, I want everyone to know that we are not afraid.” (Photo courtesy of Gloria Mendoza.)

I have a bachelor’s of fine arts — it took work, blood and tears, but I made it just in time for the DACA permit. I moved from Texas to New York City to pursue my dreams, and I’m currently able to support myself and my mother thanks to my work permit. I’ve been advocating for and educating my family and community about immigration rights since high school.

I have watched in horror and despair as my community gets terrorized by the current administration, and although it is hard and overwhelming at times, I want everyone to know that we are not afraid.

We Dreamers are made of something different. We are the culture and blood of our origins, but we are also the promise and future of this country.

We are Mexican, we are Latinos, we are Asians, we are Muslims, we are Everyone, and WE ARE NOT AFRAID. We are educated individuals ready to fight, because we don’t know anything else — we have been fighting since we were born. Fighting to keep our cultures and traditions while being American, fighting to make our families proud, fighting for our space in this country, fighting to never go back into the shadows again.

And we will keep fighting. NO ME CALLO, NO ME SIENTO, NO ME VOY.

Gloria Mendoza is a DACA recipient living in Brooklyn, New York.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Gloria, visit www.nilc.org. 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!

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Photo Journal: Not Just a Dreamer (The Torch)

Photo journal: Not just a Dreamer

By Brittany Aguilera, guest blogger, and NILC staff
FEBRUARY 16, 2018

Brittany Aguilera lost her DACA on December 7, 2017. A trained photographer who lives in New York, Brittany documented her experiences through photos the day before and the day after her DACA expired. Her photo journal of those two days is accompanied by excerpts adapted from a speech she gave recently at a press conference in Washington, DC.


WITH DACA

It’s Thursday morning.

 

At this hour, I should’ve been on my way to the local story time.

 

I should’ve been pushing a double stroller…

 

…while the twins sang out to everyone they passed in Brooklyn.

 

From walking, to even their first words, I have been there for it all.

 

I’ve had the luxury of watching the twins progress and gain individual personalities, which I’ve come to love as I would my own family members’. I’m about to lose a job with a great family who I care about deeply and who care about me in the same way.

 


WITHOUT DACA

My family as well as myself is affected by this decision, but we are forced to maintain a sense of hope because without it we don’t have much.

 

I’m in a constant exhaustion that I can’t shake off.

 

My message to those who are in this situation with me: Don’t lose hope. Make our voices heard.

 

My sister and I were always taught to never say we can’t do something. Our parents wanted us to believe that nothing was unattainable, and that anything was possible, if you worked hard for it. I’m aware that there are other families who are going through what me and my family are at this very moment. This is why I am here.

 

I’m not just a Dreamer. I’m a daughter, a sister, and an aunt to a beautiful nephew. I’m a body of untapped potential just waiting for a chance to release it.

 

Give me and others like myself the chance to shine — and the chance to dream the way that others do. Give us our smiles back, and our endless hope. Dreaming is not against any law, but what is truly against all laws is taking another’s opportunity to do so.


Brittany Aguilera is a caregiver, photographer, and DACA recipient from Queens, New York.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Brittany, visit www.nilc.org. 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!


Watch Brittany’s speech (on NILC’s Facebook page).

Brittany Aguilera

Brittany Aguilera’s DACA expired last week. She sent in her renewal application in September, but it was rejected due to a clerical error. Listen to her moving testimony to lawmakers:

“I am a body of untapped potential just waiting for a chance to release it.”

#DreamActNow

Posted by National Immigration Law Center on Thursday, December 14, 2017

 

And read this article about Brittany in The New Yorker.

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

Dreamers are trailblazers for their families and communities

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

By Guadalupe Estrada, guest blogger, and NILC staff
FEBRUARY 15, 2018

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 www.nilc.org. 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!

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

It’s February, and I’m undocumented again

By 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 www.nilc.org. 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!

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A Dreamer Whose Contributions Help Drive America (The Torch)

A Dreamer Whose Contributions Help Drive America

By 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 www.nilc.org. 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!

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We Hope for an American Future (The Torch)

We hope for an American future

By 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 www.nilc.org or call Congress at 478-488-8059 and ask them to vote on the bipartisan Dream Act now!

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How ICE Uses Databases and Information-Sharing to Deport Immigrants

How ICE Uses Databases and Information-Sharing to Deport Immigrants

By Joan Friedland, guest blogger
January 25, 2018

Immigrants’ rights advocates are concerned about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the larger agency of which it’s a part, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), use databases and information-sharing systems to target people for deportation. Advocates are particularly interested in understanding how ICE interacts with state and local law enforcement agencies and with state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs), fearing that even innocent contact with police or DMVs will put immigrants and their family members at risk of deportation.

Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web: Basic Information for Advocates about Databases and Information-Sharing among Federal, State, and Local Agencies, a report published by NILC this past September, explores how some of these databases and information-sharing systems work. We’ve learned that there are no simple answers. There is instead a complex web of databases and information-sharing among federal, state, and local agencies that facilitates immigration enforcement. The report describes an intertwined set of databases, information-sharing systems, and informal relationships that don’t always require any formal collaboration or agreements between federal and state agencies.

How the Information-Sharing Works

Secure Communities. Sometimes there are technological connections between databases or systems, as in the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. When police arrest someone, their fingerprints are checked automatically against both FBI and DHS databases. These databases are interoperable and, in effect, speak with each other. A “hit” can trigger removal proceedings against the arrested person. And this happens even in cities that have adopted policies that limit their role in immigration enforcement activities.

DMV databases. In some circumstances, ICE has access to information-sharing systems that allow it to tap into state databases. For example, ICE can use a state-owned network called Nlets and state criminal justice networks to obtain information about arrests and convictions, or to obtain information from DMV databases about a person, such as their home address or license plate number. ICE can use this information to decide whom to target for immigration enforcement and to locate the people it’s targeted.

National Crime Information Center database. Police also may have access to a federal database that can be used to trigger immigration enforcement. For example, officers on the beat can use the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database when they are seeking background information on a person they encounter in the field. Even though the NCIC is called a criminal database, it also includes civil immigration information, such as information about administrative arrests and deportations. Police can use this information, which is often inaccurate, to report individuals to ICE. And police officers who have authority to enforce immigration law under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are explicitly granted access to federal databases as immigration enforcers.

Gang databases. Gang databases are illustrative of how inaccurate and misleading information can migrate from one federal or state database to another and can be used for immigration enforcement, with devastating effects. State and federal agencies, including ICE, use commercial database software called GangNET. This database contains notoriously inaccurate information about gangs and alleged gangs, including photos of individuals alleged to be gang members or associates. In a single search, government agencies can simultaneously search their own GangNET system and a network of GangNET systems in other states and federal agencies. ICE has its own Gang File that accesses GangNET and other investigative systems developed by private contractors. A Gang File in the FBI’s NCIC database provides information to state and local law enforcement, as well as to ICE.

Mobile biometric devices. ICE agents in the field, sometimes working with local police, use mobile devices to take biometrics such as fingerprints or photos of people they encounter, often profiling people based on how they look or act. They also rely on facial recognition systems owned by local police agencies. One ICE agent described how he ran an individual’s photo through the police’s facial recognition system after his “spidey senses” started “tingling” when he encountered the person—an MO guaranteed to exacerbate unjust profiling based on race or other factors. Biometrics taken in the field are checked against and stored in FBI and DHS databases, where they become available for future searches even if they did not result in an ICE arrest.

Informal communications. But the tangled web is comprised of more than merely technology. Informal communications between ICE and state and local agencies play a major role, too. For example, ICE agents might ask state DMV employees to run DMV photos through ICE’s facial recognition systems or to check the license plates associated with a particular address where agents suspect undocumented immigrants live. ICE agents might simply be given access to lists of foreign-born people who are being held in particular jails, or they may be allowed to enter jails to interview such individuals. Probation and parole officers often give ICE agents information about their probationers or parolees, or arrange for agents to detain them at their offices.

Joan Friedland is a NILC consultant and the primary author of our report “Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web.” She formerly was a managing attorney at NILC.

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