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Outrage: Texas Dreamer with Active DACA Status in Detention for a Month

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Felipe Abonza-Lopez the latest example of how Trump Administration is targeting young immigrants despite assurances from Trump; latest reminder why Congress must pass Dream Act this year

In the latest outrageous example of the Trump Administration targetingDACA recipients and other young immigrants, HuffPost’s Elise Foley highlights that 20-year old Felipe Abonza-Lopez has been unjustly held in a Texas detention facility for a month despite his active DACA status. Foley’s story “Trump Administration Detaining DACA Recipient With Disability”, excerpted below, is filled with scandalous details, including that detention facility staff have mocked Abonza-Lopez for his prosthetic leg:

Felipe Abonza-Lopez and his advocates say he was picked up in spite of a clean criminal record when he was riding in a car with undocumented family members. Customs and Border Protection confirmed arresting a DACA recipient, and said it was “in the course of a human smuggling investigation.” The recipient’s “status will be reviewed at an immigration hearing,” Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Felix Chavez said in a statement.

Amy Fischer, the policy director of RAICES, which is assisting with Abonza-Lopez’s case, said he was not smuggling and has not been charged with anything. “If CBP is trying to criminalize DACA recipients with mixed status families for driving in a car with their undocumented family members, that is wholly unjust,” she said in an email.

…Abonza-Lopez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 5, has DACA protections that expire in May 2019, so he should be protected, Fischer said. While it’s possible to lose DACA status for certain crimes or for gang activity, Abonza-Lopez has no criminal record and his status has not been revoked, she said. But he ended up in detention anyway. “We know that ICE will try to detain and deport people who have DACA so long as no one is paying attention to it,” Fischer said.

…Abonza-Lopez, who has a prosthetic leg, is now being detained at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas. He has struggled with pain in one of his legs, which was amputated when he was a child. He wrote in a Nov. 11 letter that when he went to the medical clinic to ask for help, the medical worker and a guard joked about his leg in English, acting as if he did not understand. The guard said, “You can put a broomstick in his leg and he can use [it to] sweep,” Abonza-Lopez wrote.

Foley’s piece also includes a copy of the heartbreaking, personal letter penned by Abonza-Lopez while in detention. 

Felipe’s detention is the latest example that, despite President Trump’s false reassurances, DACA recipients and other young immigrants are under threat of detention and deportation under this Administration. Among the reasons we need to pass the Dream Act this year, not at some vague point in the future, include: 

  • 10-year old Rosa Maria Hernandez, who would qualify for the Dream Act, was separated from her family and placed in detention after CBP encountered her private ambulance at a border checkpoint and then waited outside her hospital room (while Rosa Maria has been reunited with her family, the government may still file deportation proceedings against her)
  • Hundreds of Dreamers who missed their DACA re-application deadlines due to government ineptitude: This New York Times story by Liz Robbins highlighting how some of the 22,000 DACA recipients who missed the artificial October 5th re-application deadline and are now losing protections were victims of the government’s own ineptitude, via mail processing delays
  • 122 Dreamers each day who are losing DACA protections: A new Center for American Progress column, “Thousands of DACA Recipients Are Already Losing Their Protection From Deportation.” The report finds that 122 Dreamers every day are losing DACA protection between October 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. As CAP notes, “the reality is that with every passing day, DACA recipients lose their protections and become vulnerable to a regime of enforcement overdrive.”
  • Nearly 300,000 DACA recipients who are set to lose their jobs between March and November 2018: A new report from FWD.us, “The Impact of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Repeal on Jobs,” finds that if Congress fails to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, such as the Dream Act, nearly 300,000 DACA recipients will be ripped out of the American workforce. During that time, every single business day more than 1,700 Dreamers will lose the ability to work and contribute to the U.S. economy. And nearly all 800,000 Dreamers could be fired from their jobs and will become priorities for deportation to countries that most have no memory of.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

Felipe Abonza Lopez’s case is just the latest reminder that the same Trump Administration that ended DACA is now actively targeting Dreamers, ignoring DACA status, and set to detain and deport anyone they come across. It’s up to Members of Congress to stand up for a more just and decent vision of America and to counter these outrageous actions by the Trump Administration. The urgency is now for Felipe and thousands of other young immigrants who need Congress to resolve Dreamers’ status this year.