Hundreds of Portuguese ‘Dreamers’ in legal limbo

Hundreds of Portuguese ‘Dreamers’ in legal limbo

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It is hard to know numerically how many Portuguese could face deportation due to President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — a reprieve for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children — but immigrant advocates who have provided support to some of them say there are at least hundreds who can be potentially impacted.

Helena da Silva Hughes, executive director for the Immigrants’ AssistanceCenter in New Bedford, said her office started getting calls as soon as the official announcement to end DACA was made on Tuesday.

“A lot of them are Portuguese,” she said. “They are afraid of what’s going to happen.”

Since DACA was created in 2012, the IAC has provided assistance to about 200 DACA eligible individuals by helping them fill out the required application forms or referring them to other proper services.

This article (by first appeared in the Fall River Herald on Sept. 8th, 2017 – HERE

“I would say 75 percent of them are Portuguese,” Hughes said. “We don’t see many Brazilians because they seem to know how to navigate the system better than the Portuguese.”

Although the great majority of local Portuguese immigrants have legal status, Hughes said that “in recent years many immigrants, especially from the Azores, have been joining relatives who were already here” and some of the younger ones found protection in the DACA program.

According to Catholic Social Services of Fall River Staff Attorney Timothy Paicopolos, that office helped between 75 to 100 people with DACA from 2012 to 2014. Of the 75 who received direct representation by CSS, 22 were from Portugal and 14 from Brazil.

But don’t expect the Portuguese to fight openly to stay in the U.S. like other ethnic groups are vowing to do, Hughes said.

“The Portuguese are very private,” she said. “I think it’s a culture thing.”

Created by President Barack Obama through an executive order, DACA has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. Applicants, the so-called Dreamers, cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.

Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) does not work directly with DACA, but since the program was created it has referred hundreds of Portuguese-speaking community members to other organizations that provide DACA application assistance, said MAPS Communications Manager Isidro Fagundes.

“We urge our community members to stay hopeful and to seek as much information as possible,” MAPS told O Jornal in a statement.

Trump’s move sets a clock for Congress to act to preserve the program’s protections before the DACA recipients begin losing their status March 5, 2018.

MAPS hopes Congress “will display courage and commitment” to the immigrant population, and pass the DREAM Act, “which would, once and for all, give Dreamers a permanent solution to their current immigration status.”

“Standing-up for Dreamers and all immigrants should never be a partisan issue,” MAPS Executive Director Paulo Pinto said. “We urge congress to stand-up for human rights and do the right thing for the future of this country.”

As many as 800,000 Dreamers have applied to join the initiative since its inception. Nearly 8,000 of them call Massachusetts home.

“Massachusetts has a lot to lose from ending DACA, including more than $606 million in benefits to our local economy,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are approximately 5,000 DACA-eligible residents living in Rhode Island.

In the states of New Jersey and California, there are potentially hundreds more Portuguese nationals who will be affected by Trump’s decision.

New Jersey Immigration lawyer Moses Apsan told Lusa news agency that he has helped many Portuguese apply for DACA.

“In these last few years, I have filled out between 300 and 400 applications. About half of them were for Portuguese citizens,” said the lawyer.

Bela Ferreira, executive for the Portuguese Organization for Social Services and Opportunities (POSSO), in Santa Clara, Calif., said her organization “knows young people who are protected by the program,” but it’s impossible to put a number on the Portuguese living in that area who will be impacted by Trump’s move.

“Our community is widely dispersed, so we don’t know the dimension of this reality. But we know there are a lot of recent immigrants, who arrived in the last 15 years, and many of them fit this profile,” she told Lusa.

The Secretary for the Portuguese Communities Abroad said Portuguese officials are in contact with the consular posts in the U.S. to try to determine the potential impact of Trump’s decision on Portuguese citizens.

José LuÍs Carneiro said that Portugal is “monitoring the situation” and that Portugal’s Ambassador to the United States Domingos Fezas Vital is trying to determine the implications of this decision.

On Wednesday, 15 states — including Massachusetts and Rhode Island — and the District of Columbia sued the U.S. government to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end DACA.

“Dreamers are Americans. They go to our schools, serve in our military, work and start business in our communities,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said. “We will not allow President Trump to betray these young people.”

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said “President Trump has committed a moral sin on these children.”

In the lawsuit, Killmartin cites a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that estimates the OceanState will lose $2.6 million in state and local taxes if DACA protections are lost and another $61 million in annual GDP loss removing DACA grantees from the workforce, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.

“Ending DACA goes beyond the immorality of breaking a promise to these individuals, it will be a significant hit to our economy and workforce,” said Kilmartin.

Meanwhile, MAPS is planning to hold free informational clinics directed at DACA recipients, with the support of their Board Member and Immigration Attorney António Massa Viana. Dates and times should be announced in the coming days.

In the meantime, the community can watch an informational video with important recommendations for DACA recipients prepared by Massa Viana, which has been posted on MAPS social media pages and website at www.maps-inc.org .

This article (by first appeared in the Fall River Herald on Sept. 8th, 2017 – HERE

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