In Vir­ginia

Im­mi­grants re­act to court’s rul­ing on DACA.

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAB­RINA MORENO Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch smoreno@times­dis­ (804) 649-6103 Staff writer An­drew Cain con­trib­uted to this re­port.

In 2012, Yanet Li­monA­mado took in a sharp breath that hasn’t quite been re­leased.

With DACA, she wouldn’t be de­ported — yet.

Spurred by what then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama called a fail­ure by Congress to pass the “DREAM Act,” which would es­tab­lish a path­way to ci­ti­zen­ship for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. as chil­dren, came the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals.

The pro­gram, which would de­fer de­por­ta­tion and of­fer work per­mits to some un­doc­u­mented chil­dren, was a tem­po­rary life­line — a BandAid for a bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

The prob­lem then and now for Li­mon-Amado, a grad­u­ate of Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity, re­mains: Re­cip­i­ents are in per­pet­ual limbo.

She lived her life in two-year in­cre­ments — await­ing government re­newals of her sta­tus — un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in 2017 moved to re­scind the pro­gram.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked that ac­tion, in what was cast by some as a vic­tory for Li­mon-Amado, one of nearly 800,000 DACA re­cip­i­ents.

The 24-year-old said she felt a brief sense of re­lief Thurs­day as she poured over her work, cham­pi­oning rights for Vir­ginia’s farm and poul­try work­ers. She wouldn’t fear go­ing to sleep know­ing the morn­ing could re­sult in be­ing stripped from the home she’s known for 15 years.

But af­ter the cel­e­bra­tion, the un­cer­tainty re­mains for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of doc­tors, lawyers, nurses and stu­dents — that have found refuge in the pro­gram. At the time of ap­pli­ca­tion, can­di­dates for the pro­gram had to be at least 15, but un­der 31 years old, in school and with­out felonies or mis­de­meanors.

They await Trump’s re­ac­tion to the court rul­ing, and the pos­si­bil­ity of ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion that could cur­tail DACA one last time be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion. Nearly 3 in 4 Amer­i­cans sup­port grant­ing le­gal sta­tus to im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. as kids, ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

Chad Wolf, the act­ing di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, which over­sees im­mi­gra­tion agencies such as ICE, didn’t hint at the pos­si­bil­ity of fu­ture pro­gram re­moval at­tempts in a state­ment de­nounc­ing the rul­ing, call­ing DACA a pro­gram that was “im­ple­mented il­le­gally” and the court’s de­ci­sion one that “usurps the clear au­thor­ity of the Ex­ec­u­tive Branch to end un­law­ful pro­grams.”

Li­mon-Amado didn’t know her ex­is­tence would be di­vi­sive when she came to the U.S. with her mother and sis­ters from Pue­bla, Mex­ico. She was only 8 years old.

When she re­ceived the

“no tienes pa­pe­les” talk” — you don’t have pa­pers — she didn’t un­der­stand what that meant, or how be­ing un­doc­u­mented meant she may not go to col­lege or buy her par­ents the house she’s promised would ground them in the

U.S. awhile longer.

She felt Amer­i­can, she was learn­ing the lan­guage, she pledged al­le­giance to the same flag her peers did ev­ery morn­ing.

But when Li­mon-Amado spoke Span­ish at her pre­dom­i­nantly white el­e­men­tary school, lunch de­ten­tion awaited her. That still haunts her; how learn­ing English wasn’t enough and speak­ing the lan­guage that sus­tained her was rep­ri­mand­able.

She’s since worked to carve a fu­ture for other im­mi­grants as an in­tern in the Vir­ginia Gen­eral As­sem­bly and or­ga­nizer for Vir­ginia In­ter­faith Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy. She’s talked with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., about im­mi­grant rights and fought for in-state tu­ition and driver’s li­censes for un­doc­u­mented peo­ple. In the 2020 Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion, she won.

As of July 1, stu­dents will be el­i­gi­ble for in-state tu­ition at Vir­ginia’s pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties “re­gard­less of their ci­ti­zen­ship or im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” ac­cord­ing to leg­is­la­tion Gov. Ralph Northam signed in April. The mea­sures cleared the Gen­eral As­sem­bly this year as Democrats as­sumed si­mul­ta­ne­ous con­trol of the leg­is­la­ture and the gover­nor­ship for the first time in more than 20 years.

But the fight to en­sure a path­way to ci­ti­zen­ship for DACA re­cip­i­ents rages on, and there aren’t any pro­tec­tions for her par­ents. They’re tired, she said, and con­ver­sa­tions at fam­ily din­ners have taken a grim turn.

Her fa­ther be­gan work­ing be­fore he was 13, and as an un­doc­u­mented per­son, there’s no safety net wait­ing for him in re­tire­ment. It’s an op­tion he’s not sure ex­ists for him, Li­mon-Amado added, which has forced her to await the fall­out of an­other un­cer­tainty: Will her par­ents go back home to Mex­ico?

Li­mon-Amado’s voice be­came a whis­per as she thought of this. If they leave, “we might not be able to see each other any more for years,” she said.

Vir­ginia of­fi­cials such as At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring and Sens. Kaine and Mark Warner, all Democrats, as well as im­mi­grant unions is­sued state­ments Thurs­day say­ing they would con­tinue fight­ing for the nearly 25,000 Vir­gini­ans with DACA sta­tus.

Sindy Be­na­vides, a Hon­duran im­mi­grant who’s CEO of the League of United Latin Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens, the old­est His­panic civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion in the U.S., said there’s a long, wind­ing po­lit­i­cal bat­tle ahead.

Li­mon-Amado is ready for it. She has to be.


On Feb. 6, 2018, Yanet Li­mon-Amado (at lectern) was among stu­dents call­ing on the House of Del­e­gates to con­sider a bill to pro­vide in-state tu­ition to chil­dren of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

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