Local immigrant rights groups led a march from Arlington Courthouse Plaza to the White House Nov. 20 to urge the federal government to support policies to allow eligible immigrants to stay and work in the United States without fear of deportation.
The march commemorated the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s announcement to expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and establish a new policy on Deferred Action for Parents of American and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
DACA enables eligible youths brought to the U.S. as children to attend college and get work permits and driver’s licenses. It’s not a path to citizenship, as some opponents of the program allege.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month upheld a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of DAPA and the expanded DACA, so the immigrant community is urging the Supreme Court to take up this case as soon as possible.
If the Supreme Court allows these programs to take effect, an estimated 90,000 immigrants in Virginia alone would be able to live, work, study, and stay with their families in the communities and country they call home. About 5 million people would be affected nationwide.
Despite the President’s efforts to provide relief for millions of immigrants, “an unacceptable number of deportations are still happening,” said Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, chair of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO). “We demand that President Obama put an end to deportations and keep families together, and we urge the Obama Administration to appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit decision.”
“We have seen first-hand how the current DACA program has benefited young people in Virginia and across the country,” said Dong Yoon Kim, program director at the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium. NAKASEC hosted a free clinic after the march at its offices in Annandale to help youths apply for DACA.
Young immigrants advocating for DACA are known as “DREAMers,” reflecting the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), which was introduced in Congress several years ago. That legislation failed to pass, but the name stuck. President Obama implemented DACA by executive action in 2012.
In addition to NAKASEC and VACLAO, other organizations that participated in the march include Mason DREAMers, DREAMers of Virginia, DREAMers of Martinsville, DREAMers Mothers in Action, the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice in the National Capital Region, Just Neighbors, and the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network.