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Pennsylvania Dreamer Detained – Why Congress Needs to Act Urgently

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New Vox Exclusive Tells How DACA Renewal Applicant Was Detained After USPS Mistake Led to Loss of Status

Writing in Vox, Dara Lind breaks the news that, “A former DACA recipient who was waiting to reapply for deportation protections, after his initial application was rejected due to postal service delays, is currently in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Pennsylvania … Osman Enriquez, who was picked up by ICE Mondaymorning after a routine traffic stop, is one of the estimated 12,000 immigrants who have lost their DACA protections since the Trump administration started winding down the program in September.”

The details of this profoundly disturbing story underscore why Dreamer relief is needed urgently and why a vote for an end-of-the-year spending bill that does not include Dreamer relief is a vote to deport Dreamers such as Osman.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Members of the Pennsylvania delegation who say they support Dreamers – like Representatives Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick, Pat Meehan, and Glenn Thompson – should work to ensure that Osman is returned to his family immediately. They should also take this example directly to Speaker Paul Ryan and demand inclusion of Dreamer relief in the year-end spending package.

For months, Republican leaders have been trying to kick the can down the road when it comes to taking up the Dream Act. Speaker Ryan has been more worried about trying to contain the Freedom Caucus than about conducting the business of the People, or even protecting his own Republican moderates. This month, Congress has a clear opportunity to pass popular legislation on a bipartisan basis – and allow Dreamers like Osman to continue to build their lives in America. Pennsylvania’s House Republicans can and must do more to ensure that their leaders pick the right path forward.

Below are key excerpts from the Vox piece, “Exclusive: the Postal Service kept him from renewing his DACA. Now he’s in immigration detention:”

…Osman Enriquez, who was picked up by ICE Monday morning after a routine traffic stop, is one of the estimated 12,000 immigrants who have lost their DACA protections since the Trump administration started winding down the program in September.

In theory, these immigrants were given a chance to apply for one last two-year extension of their protections and work permits. But many missed the tight deadline imposed by the administration — just one month from the day they announced the sunsetting of the program — and others saw their applications rejected by the government for being late, after languishing for weeks at a United States Postal Service processing center in Chicago.

Enriquez is among those immigrants. According to the Trump administration, he’s supposed to wait to be invited to reapply by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Instead, he’s being put on the road to deportation. (DHS did not respond to a request for comment.)

Enriquez might be the first known case of an immigrant getting detained by ICE after his DACA expired under the administration’s new rules. He’s almost certainly the first known case of an immigrant getting detained while waiting to reapply for DACA renewal.

His presence there is perhaps the most vivid reminder yet that as Congress drags out what to do about DACA recipients, it will probably be too late for some.

On Monday morning — six days before his son’s first birthday — as Enriquez drove down Route 83 to his contracting job, he was pulled over by a Pennsylvania State Police officer. The officer told him his vehicle registration had expired. Enriquez’s fiancée says the family thought they had kept their registration current; since Pennsylvania doesn’t put registration-date stickers on license plates, Carranza speculates that the only way the trooper would have known Enriquez’s registration had lapsed would be if she’d run his license plates when he drove by.

Enriquez was ultimately issued a ticket not for the expired registration, but for his expired driver’s license. But in the meantime, Carranza says, the state police officer had called Immigration and Customs Enforcement to come pick up Enriquez. ICE agents took him to the York detention center and served him with a notice to appear in immigration court — formally starting deportation proceedings against him.

Two days later, Enriquez is still in detention. Unless something changes, he’ll miss his son’s birthday on Saturday.

…Advocates and Democrats, extrapolating from USCIS numbers, have estimated that 122 immigrants will lose their DACA protections every day between October 5 and March 5. (That doesn’t count the immigrants arrested by ICE despite still having DACA, or whose DACA protections have been stripped from them after an arrest.)

…what happened to Enriquez is the inevitable outcome of the way the Trump administration wound down DACA. It gave immigrants an unusually short amount of time to apply for renewal, then enforced stricter-than-usual rules about what counted as a timely application. Their current plan to allow some immigrants affected by mail delays to reapply still puts many immigrants at risk of a gap between one work permit expiring and a new one being issued. And during that time, working, driving, and existing in the US put DACA-eligible immigrants at just as much risk of deportation as any other unauthorized immigrant.

You can’t understand the current debate in Congress over how and when to help DACA recipients without understanding this phenomenon. Elected Democrats are extremely aware that people are losing DACA every day, and many moderate Republicans also note that the program is less effective the longer it’s allowed to wind down. But Republican leadership isn’t thinking about the program’s efficacy; it’s focused on the March 5 “deadline” set by the White House, and sees no need to take action before then.

…And in the meantime, Osman Enriquez, and perhaps others like him, will be waiting in a detention cell for Congress to make up its mind.