The University of Idaho College of Law hosted a discussion on the current and future state of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Thursday.
Luis Cortes Romero, a UI alumnus, was one of the lead attorneys in Garcia v. United States of America, which challenged President Donald Trump’s revocation of DACA. Kate Evans, an associate professor of law at UI, presented alongside Romero. She prompted him with questions about the state of DACA, his current work and his journey from a UI student to an immigration attorney.
DACA was an Obama-era immigration policy created in 2012 for immigrants who arrived in America illegally as a minor. The policy, which came by way of executive order, allowed minors to attain a renewable, two-year deferred action from deportation and allowed eligibility for work permits.
The Trump administration formally announced the end of DACA Sept. 5. The program protected nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants from being deported.
Romero began his presentation by addressing common questions people have about DACA recipients.
“When someone’s here without legal status, one of the questions that is always asked is ‘Why don’t you just apply for citizenship?’ The reality is that in the current schematic of our immigration laws, a lot of the time there just isn’t a way to get that done,” Romero said. “There is a citizenship application that does exist, but to even apply for it you have to be a legal, permanent resident — somebody with a green card. That is where a lot of people get stuck.”
Romero, who himself was a DACA recipient, focused on why the immigration policy is so important for his clients and people across the U.S. who fear immigration repercussions.
“No one’s really talking about the people who are impacted by this,” Romero said. “The individuals who have these stories to tell, who have very human consequences to what’s going on.”
Evans said she thinks many people do not appreciate the amount of work and vulnerability required to complete a DACA application, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
“Doing a DACA application requires saying where you’ve ever lived, where you’ve ever worked and proving you’re deportable,” Evans said. “And then explaining exactly where you can be found generally at any given time.”
Romero and Evans spent a majority of the presentation discussing the method the Trump administration used when revoking DACA and questioned if the sudden revocation of DACA was constitutional.
Romero said throughout his career, he has learned to value every opportunity, regardless of potential profit. He cited his personal connection with struggling clients who come from similar backgrounds as himself.
“One of the biggest takeaways I’ve found is being able to recognize opportunities particularly beyond the paycheck,” Romero said.
Monica Ontiveros, a law student at UI, attended the presentation to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the DACA situation.
Ontiveros said she’s been interested in immigration because of her ethnicity, and cultural ties to the situation.
“It’s one of the main reasons why I came to law school,” Ontiveros said. “I think there is a real importance for advocating for people who are put in situations that need that help, and who can’t really voice themselves.”
Ontiveros said although she’s taken immigration law classes through Evans, Romero’s first-hand encounters of corruption helped her get a firm grasp on the situation.
“I have taken the immigration class through Professor Evans. I kind of knew a little bit about DACA, but I think hearing the stories by the speaker today was kind of — I was kind of in shock,” Ontiveros said. “I think what shocked me the most is when attorneys don’t take clients that are in need because they don’t have money, but those people still need representation.”
Andrew Ward can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @WardOfTheWorlds