|Left to right: Dong Yoon Kim, Emily Kessel, and Edgar Aranda-Yanoc at NAKASEC offices in Annandale.|
Despite disappointing election results – with the Republicans retaining control of both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates – advocates for the local immigrant community are stepping up their efforts to fight for immigrants’ access to health care and to become productive members of society.
Representatives of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) spoke about their priorities at a briefing at the NAKASEC office Nov. 4.
DACA allows people who were brought to the United States as children to apply for temporary legal status with the right to get work permits and drivers licenses and qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
“We are committed to those issues, regardless of the election results,” said Aranda-Yanoc. “We want to be in a place that is welcoming. We will keep working to make sure immigration reform is at the top of the list for any candidate and fight back against any attempt to introduce anti-immigration legislation.”
“Even though the elections are over, a lot of work needs to be done,” said Dong Yoon Kim, NAKASEC’s program director. On the local level, he said, that means working to ensure Fairfax County and public schools officials’ attempts to address a growing budget deficit don’t lead to cuts in essential school programs, such as music and arts, or larger class sizes.
Immigration advocacy groups are organizing a march on Nov. 20 – possibly from Arlington to the White House – to commemorate the anniversary of DACA and highlight the need to extend that program. There will be a workshop Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. to help people apply for recognition under DACA.
The groups are also pushing for an expansion of DACA and implementation of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents). Those initiatives were announced by the White House but are on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit.
Currently, those eligible for DACA must be age 31 and younger and must have been brought to the U.S. before they were 16. Those approved for DACA must reapply in two years. The expansion would allow people older than 31 to apply and would extend eligibility to three years.
Approximately 25,000 Virginians qualify for the original DACA implemented in 2012, another 4,000 would qualify under the expanded DACA, and 61,000 would qualify for DAPA.
“DACA has allowed me to work legally and drive and made school more affordable,” says Bati, an Arlington resident who was brought to the U.S. from Mongolia by his parents when he was 10. His younger brother is a U.S. citizen, which means his parents could be eligible for DAPA. That would enable them to get better-paying jobs and Social Security numbers, and they would no longer live with the fear of deportation.
“Although DACA didn’t solve all of my problems, it gave me some of the tools I needed to become independent and self-reliant,” says Jung Bin, an Annandale resident who immigrated in 2001 from Seoul, South Korea, with his parents. DACA enabled him to pursue a degree in business information technology at Virginia Tech.
Immigrant advocates are trying to get as many people as possible to qualify for DACA before there’s a ruling on a federal lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 states on the program, said Emily Kessell, director of advocacy at NAKASEC.
The 5th Circuit Appeals Court temporarily blocked implementation of DAPA and the expanded DACA. That case will go to the Supreme Court, but the plaintiffs are trying to stall a decision until after the end of the Obama Administration.