In the wake of a recent federal order that could potentially end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Brookdale student groups joined together on the Lincroft campus Sept. 21 to host an open forum titled “Immigration in America.”
The forum, sponsored by Brookdale’s History and Political Science Club and Dreamers+, featured a number of guest speakers and an interactive discussion regarding the U.S. immigration process, DACA policies, and the potential impacts of the Justice Department’s Sept. 5 decision to end DACA, unless Congress can formally approve new legislation by March 2018.
“It’s very hard to say what is going to happen,” said assistant history professor Ashley Zampogna-Krug, who also serves as advisor to Dreamers+. “The truth is that, at this point, we don’t really know.”
That uncertainty, faced by the more than 700,000 young adults currently living and working in the U.S. under the DACA program, was a key reason for the forum, said associate political science professor Jonathan Moschberger.
“A lot of times people just don’t know the full history, because there can be so much,” said Moschberger, an advisor to the History and Political Science Club and coordinator of the Brookdale Honors Program. “And history, as they say, repeats itself, or at the very least it rhymes. Sometimes we don’t learn the lessons from the past that we are supposed to learn, and hopefully we might be able to create a bit of an awakening, at least here on campus.”
The forum featured an overview of U.S. immigration policies by International Education Center director Janice Thomas, who explained the difference between aliens, nationals, and citizens and discussed the long, arduous process immigrants must navigate to secure legal residency in America.
Zampogna-Krug went on to give an overview of DACA, a presidential order signed in 2012 that gives legal protection to eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
DACA recipients – all of whom entered the U.S. before turning 16 and have been living in the country since at least 2007 – are permitted to remain in the U.S., work, and attend school under a federal work permit, which must be renewed every two years.
Joined by Brenda Codallos, a second-year student and member of Dreamers+, Zampogna-Krug also responded to questions from the audience about the costs and benefits of the DACA program.
DACA recipients – or Dreamers, as they are commonly known – pay full taxes and social security dues, Zampogna-Krug said, in addition to legal costs incurred during the application process and a $495 biennial renewal fee.
Despite these costs, added Codallos, Dreamers are not entitled to any form of federal aid, including financial aid and federally sponsored health care benefits.
“Everything is out of pocket,” said Codallos, who came to the U.S. with her parents at the age of 4. “You can get health insurance if you work for a [private] employer who offers it to you, but that’s it.”
Adjunct political science professor Nausheen Husain, who also serves as an advisor to the History and Political Science club, added that more than 70 percent of all Dreamers have attained or are pursuing a bachelor’s degree, while nearly all DACA recipients work, pay taxes and speak English.
Following the Justice Department’s Sept. 5 decision, the federal government is no longer accepting new applications for the DACA program, and current Dreamers will be unable to renew their two-year permits after this year. DACA recipients with a permit set to expire before March 5, 2018 must apply for renewal by Oct. 5.
Congress now has a six-month window to pass formal DACA legislation that would allow Dreamers to remain in the U.S. If no legislation is passed, DACA recipients face a very uncertain future, Codallos said.
“We are tense,” said Codallos, responding to a question from a fellow student. “We don’t know what is going to happen in this six-month period, and that uncertainty is really a big concern for a lot of DACA residents. Everyone goes through an immigration process, and everyone is assigned to an officer… Once DACA ends, the individual will go to court, to a judge, and that judge can decide if you are to be deported.”
Forum hosts encouraged students who may be impacted by the DACA proposal to visit the college’s UndocuALLY website and attend one of the upcoming DACA information sessions in towns like Red Bank and Freehold. Professor emeritus Sherri West, who currently serves as vice chair of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, encouraged students to attend an upcoming MCHRC program as well.
View more photos from the Immigration in America forum here.