NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Oct. 5 is the deadline for undocumented immigrants to renew their DACA status, a program which protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
DACA, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program which allows those who entered the country illegally as children to obtain work authorization and a temporary halt on deportation
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced early last month that the Trump Administration would end the program in March 2018, barring a legislative solution from Congress.
Applications will be accepted through tomorrow, for immigrants whose DACA status expires between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018.
As many as 800,000 DACA recipients across the country, also known as Dreamers, could be affected.
The deferred status ends every two years, so under the plan, DACA statuses would expire over time and not be renewed, with the last one ending on March 5, 2020.
Since then, projects like the Esperanza Neighborhood Project, have been working with New Brunswick’s undocumented immigrants to make sure their paperwork is in order before tomorrow’s deadline
The project is part of the Catholic Charities Dioceses of Metuchen’s Immigration Legal Service Program. During September, the program held two DACA renewal clinics at the Unity Square Community Center in New Brunswick and another at the Catholic Charities Central Office in Perth Amboy.
Since DACA’s enactment in 2012, the Catholic charity has represented roughly 600 clients, with half of them from New Brunswick, according to Jason Rowe, the immigration service’s director.
The state has about 22,000 DACA beneficiaries, according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“A lot of our clients, when they applied for DACA, it really gave them a future and to build their lives,” Rowe said.
The oldest DACA recipient the program has worked with, Rowe said, was 37 by now, but had still come over as a child. Many clients have been in the United States “most of their conscious lives.”
“These are people who’ve gone through our schools, have gone onto college, held down jobs and started building families,” Rowe said.
Future efforts for the Catholic charities will focus on pressing Congress to propose legislation that would permanently codify DACA status, something the Trump administration has put on the table as well.
Trump had given Congress has five months to act on the program, to prevent DACA from shutting down.
The issue came to a head earlier this year when the Rutgers publication, The Daily Targum, reported that Mayor James Cahill did not consider New Brunswick a so-called sanctuary city.
According to the report, the New Brunswick police would follow county, state and federal guidelines, setting off worries from the Hub City’s sprawling community of immigrants and activists.
Cahill soonafter followed up with a written statement pledging that police would not enforce immigration laws nor “participate in raids and investigations” regarding undocumented immigrants, though he still did not refer to New Brunswick a sanctuary city.
The city also wouldn't prosecute undocumented immigrants on that basis alone, or use city money to enforce federal immigration laws, Cahill said.
The mayor's office couldn't be immediately reached for additional comment.