LBJ School holds panel over DACA among other immigration issues

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Panelist Alejandra Apecechea, left, speaks with Austin residents Leticia Montoya, center, and Erika Montoya during the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy briefing Sep. 10 at LBJ School of Public Affairs. Montoya and Montoya frequently volunteer with immigrants in the Austin area.

Photo Credit: Presley Glotfelty | Daily Texan Staff

The future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is uncertain, an attorney said Tuesday afternoon at an on-campus panel.

Around 50 students gathered at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs to hear panelists speak on the current status of DACA and other immigration issues in the United States.

Alejandra Apecechea, a panelist and attorney at the D.C. law office King & Spalding, said it is hard to keep up with issues of immigration in the U.S. because they are happening so frequently.

“Every day, there is something new happening,” Apecechea said. “(The changes to DACA are) a multifaceted attack on (the immigrant) community.”

DACA was created in 2012 when President Obama issued an executive order with the goal of protecting immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16 from deportation. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that DACA would be rescinded, and its long-term status is expected to be decided before early 2020, Apecechea said. 

Juany Torres, a panelist and public affairs graduate student, said she learned a lot from her experiences helping immigrant communities.

“I’m very grateful for relationships I’ve been able to establish with DREAMers across the United States,” Torres said. “(DACA recipients) could get deported at any time. Though (DACA) is a work permit that they get and the opportunity to continue school, it’s not enough to get them fully integrated.”

In addition to DACA, the panelists said disputes have increased within the past year due to images of poor living conditions at immigrant detention centers at the U.S. and Mexico border. Brian Stansbury, an attorney at King & Spalding, said he spent time at the Port Isabel Detention Center last year and said he was terrified by what he saw.

“That experience was jarring,” Stansbury said. “These are families who just wanted to get away from a horrible situation and were treated like criminals. No person deserves to have their children snatched away from them and not know where they are.”

Stansbury said students who want to get involved on immigration issues should become vocal advocates. 

“If you are particularly not a member of an immigrant community, it is even more important for you to be vocal and explain to people how important it is to advocate for reform and to protect (immigrants) from other forces,” Stansbury said.