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October 20, 2017

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Legal options limited for DACA participants without congressional action

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L.E. Baskow

Community organizations, activists and representatives gather at the East Las Vegas Community Center to discuss what Trump’s DACA decision means for the 13,000 Nevada DACA recipients on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

Trump's DACA Decision

Alicia Contreras and Erika Castro lead community organizations, activists and representatives at the East Las Vegas Community Center to discuss what Trump's DACA decision means for the 13,000 Nevada DACA recipients on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.  Contreras is with Mi Familia Vota and  Castro with PLAN. Launch slideshow »

Participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have little or no options if Congress fails to act and provide a solution.

DACA was created as a temporary solution for immigrants who came to the United States as children and had no other options, said Laura Barrera of the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law. There are 13,000 participants in Nevada.

“The issue here is that there really aren’t other options for most people with DACA,” she said. “The reason DACA was made is because there is no existing manner for them to become permanent residents or citizens.”

While the DACA decision doesn’t directly affect her clients, who are mostly ages 13-16 and in different immigration situations than those covered by DACA, she said the legal clinic will still be taking steps to help.

“We’ll be doing more community events as needed and trying to offer more consultations and things like that and just support people in any way we can,” Barrera said.

Congress has six months to act before the Trump administration stops renewing permits under the program. These work permits are what allow DACA recipients to pay for school, including UNLV, Barrera said.

“Once their permits expire, they won’t be able to work and pay for their tuition anymore,” she said. “The reason DACA was made is because there aren’t other options. The thing that needs to happen here is for Congress to pass a more permanent solution for them. They didn’t choose this and then they grew up here, want to go to college and work.”

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the organization will continue to the fight in court and in Congress.

“We all must act and call on Congress to swiftly enact a bipartisan solution and enact the bipartisan Dream Act,” Hincapié said on a press call on Tuesday.

Barrera said it’s important for people to realize that DACA participants didn’t have any other options. She said the program does not give people a legal status in the United States.

“There (are) a lot of misconceptions that maybe people didn’t want to become permanent residents or they aren’t taking advantage of possibilities they have, but it’s not true,” she said. “The reason DACA was created was not to be a permanent solution, but it was supposed to be a temporary solution for these young people who don’t have any other way to stay in the United States.”

Barrera said it’s always a good idea to meet with an attorney to determine whether a particular immigration situation qualifies for another option.

“The Dreamers as a group have bipartisan support right now,” she said. “I think there is some hope for legislation to be passed that will provide a more permanent solution.”