DACA deadline nears with fate of Dreamers in question

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It is now less than two weeks until the DACA program is set to expire. Meanwhile, the people who came to the U.S. as small children continue to be used as a political football by politicians, according to Beatriz Maya, of the La Conexion organization in Wood County. “It would be a miracle if they could come up with something meaningful in a few days,” Maya said Sunday as members of the La Conexion Solidarity Committee met. “We are expecting the worst.” However, the rulings of two federal courts are keeping the DACA program on life support, explained Amanda Schackow, also of La Conexion. The court rulings are at least allowing renewals, but no one new can be added to DACA. This has local immigrants and their advocates frustrated and fearful. “The Republicans promised to come out with a fix for DACA. That did not happen,” Schackow said. “The Dream Act was not even a conversation.” Ten different attempts at legislation are “floating around,” she said. “There’s no concrete piece of legislation.” Compromise is difficult, with President Donald Trump’s insistence on a border wall, reduction in the total number of immigrants coming in, limits on family members allowed, and an end to the diversity program, Schackow said. Since little can be done about the legislation in limbo, the La Conexion Solidarity Committee has been preparing local families for possible deportation by getting the proper documentation for the children born in the U.S. from Dreamers. “They need to prepare for that terrible eventuality,” Schackow said. Deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants have gone up 40 percent in the past year, Schackow said. According to ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality), the top trigger for deportations is traffic stops. Ten or so states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses. But Ohio does not. Those immigrants are often turned over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Undocumented immigrants are given identification numbers with the IRS, so they can pay taxes on their income – but they are not allowed to have driver’s licenses in Ohio. “It’s a political decision,” Schackow said. La Conexion has hosted an educational forum with ABLE about the immigration system, and has organized a rally to gather community support for immigrants. The members write letters to legislators, and have organized visits to Congressman Bob Latta’s office. But the organization is committed…

Citizens ask Latta to stop deportation of ‘dreamers’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two months ago, Beatriz Maya sat in U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s office waiting for answers on where the congressman stands on deporting “dreamers.” She is still waiting. Maya, executive director of La Conexion, was back in Latta’s Bowling Green office on Monday, this time asking to show the congressman the economic and human side of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.) She and eight others delivered a letter encouraging Latta to talk to local employers who can’t find enough workers to fill jobs, and to families who are at risk of being torn apart. “If he hears their personal stories, we are confident that he will get a different story than what he is hearing in Washington,” she said. Maya wants Latta to meet the local young man who grew up in Wood County, learned carpentry at Penta Career Center, and now works for Rudolph-Libbe. He has no criminal record, yet he is at risk of being deported. “There is nothing you can find in him that would warrant deportation,” she said. Earlier this fall, President Donald Trump announced he would end the DACA program in six months if Congress doesn’t find a more permanent solution. Since it was enacted under President Barack Obama, about 800,000 immigrants who were children when they arrived in the U.S. illegally have received protections from the program. DACA allows young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses. Many of the “dreamers” have been here since they were babies, and America is the only country they know. Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. Their status is renewable every two years. Bowling Green’s city administration has voiced its support of DACA, and has proclaimed the city as a welcoming place for immigrants. But when asked about his stance in September, the local citizens were told that Latta was waiting to make a decision until Speaker Paul Ryan’s task force had studied the issue. When the question was repeated on Monday, Latta’s aide Tim Bosserman said he had not discussed it with the congressman. “But nothing has happened. We are running out of time. We have thousands of dreamers waiting for a solution,” Maya said. Maya fears that Congress will do nothing….

La Conexion raises funds to assist DACA dreamers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In a time when businesses are lamenting a lack of workers, the members of La Conexion de Wood County’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee wonder why some people want to make it hard for immigrant laborers to stay here. In its most recent action, the committee launched a fundraising campaign to help those with DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – status stay in the country. The campaign was successful in raising the money to help two local men renew their DACA status. That paperwork costs $495 and must be filed every two years. One of the men Rudy Cruz of Pemberville attended a recent committee meeting to speak about his situation. Cruz came with his parents from Guatemala when he was too young to remember. He also has younger siblings who were born here. Cruz grew up in Pemberville, attended Eastwood schools, and attended Penta Career Center to study carpentry. He graduated in 2016. He now works for Rudolph-Libbe. Recently he spent a week working in Marathon, Florida, helping repair damage from Hurricane Irma. He said he was grateful for the committee for its support. La Conexion is “a nice organization that helps.” Another man who works at a local factory also received support. These are the kind of skilled workers local employers say they need, said Beatriz Maya, the executive director of La Conexion. Immigrants work in all sectors of industry, both low skill and high skill, not just in agriculture. “This is becoming a critical issue,” Maya said. “If we don’t address it, employers who want to expand, to grow, won’t be able to.” Immigration status isn’t the only problem, she said. Many immigrants have difficulty getting the credit reports needed to find housing. La Conexion has also raised funds so family members of immigrants who are here without documents, and cannot get them, can get passports in case their family member is deported and they need to join with them.   Amanda Schackow, a member of the solidarity committee, gave a rundown of the various pieces of legislation addressing DACA. The Dream Act, she said, “is the one to fight for. It covers the most people. … It essentially expands what we have under DACA.” La Conexion members visited U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s field office recently, but came away without a clear idea about where the Republican congressman stood. The committee…

Path to U.S. citizenship nearly impossible for most

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   To those who wonder why undocumented immigrants don’t just wait their turn to get into the U.S., Eugenio Mollo Jr. has an answer. It can take 20 years of waiting – and that’s for the lucky ones. “It’s not that easy,” Mollo said Thursday evening during a program on immigration sponsored by LaConexion’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee. The U.S. is operating under immigration law that was adopted in 1952. Prior to then, the law was updated every seven to 12 years. “Now we’ve gone 65 years without any comprehensive immigration reform,” said Mollo, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. Meanwhile, the U.S. now has up to 12 million undocumented immigrants. The nation allows 226,000 Visas to be issued a year, based on family connections, employers who need particular expertise, or due to humanitarian issues. The antiquated system, Mollo said, permits no more than 7 percent of those Visas to go to immigrants of a particular nation. That is a problem for India, China, Mexico and the Philippines, he said. To explain the current system, Mollo used the example of a U.S. citizen having two siblings who wanted a Visa. The sibling from Uganda would have to wait 13 years from when they first applied. The sibling from Mexico would wait at least 19 years. The wait time is likely much longer now. “So many people have applied,” Mollo said. “My job is to help these people climb this immigration ladder,” he said. But the climb is difficult, especially with the federal government toughening standards and considering ending some options for refugees. Adding to the fear and frustration for those seeking to immigrate to the U.S. and those already here, are the rapidly changing rules being pushed by the President Donald Trump administration. There are plans for a border wall, more deportations, the proposed travel ban and now the possible end to the DACA program. Since Trump became president, the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers has more than doubled and the scope on deportations has expanded. Under the presidency of Barack Obama, deportations focused on undocumented immigrants who posed a risk to national security and public safety. But now all undocumented immigrants are subject to deportation, with no prioritization, Mollo said. “We’ve seen ICE go to homes and workplaces to arrest people. What national interest does that advance when we…

Citizens gather on Wooster Green to defend DACA

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Yvette Llanas, a lifelong Bowling Green resident and American citizen, never dreamed the threat of deportation would touch her family. Llanas found out last week she was wrong. “I never thought this would affect me,” Llanas said in an impromptu speech on the Wooster Green Sunday evening during a rally opposing President Donald Trump’s action to end DACA. “My daughter-in-law happens to be undocumented,” Llanas said. “The decision made this week just crushed my soul.” Her daughter-in-law came to America as a small child. “This is the only home she knows,” Llanas said. “She is part of our country,” as are her two children. “We are all immigrants here, somehow, some way,” Llanas said. About 60 local residents gathered in the Wooster Green to express their opposition to Trump’s announcement last week that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months if Congress doesn’t find a more permanent solution. Since it was enacted under President Barack Obama, about 800,000 immigrants who were children when they arrived in the U.S. illegally have received protections from the program. DACA allows young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses. Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. Their status is renewable every two years. “This is really targeting kids who were brought by their parents at a very early age,” said Beatriz Maya, of the La Conexion organization. “They don’t know any other life. It makes no sense for them to be deported. It’s very wrong. They cannot be blamed for anything.” Those attending the rally were asked to contact their congress members about the DACA issue. “The Dreamers don’t want citizenship just for themselves,” Maya said. “They want comprehensive immigration reform for 11 million undocumented immigrants, who have been contributing to the nation for many, many years.” Jorge Chavez, president of the La Conexion organization, presented his comments in Spanish and English. “I am blessed and lucky because I don’t have to be afraid,” said Chavez, who is a BGSU professor, a father and a husband. The DACA program helped about 800,000 people previously at risk of deportation. “This program allowed them to come out of the shadows, to drive, to work,” he said….

BG says ‘welcome’ in many different languages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On the day that “Dreamers” saw their American status slipping away, Bowling Green residents stood before City Council Tuesday and recited the city’s “welcoming and safe community” resolution in their native languages. “In April, we brought a resolution to City Council about Bowling Green being a welcoming community for immigrants,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, head of the city’s human relations commission, working with La Conexion. The resolution proclaims “Bowling Green as a welcoming and safe community for immigrants and condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents of Bowling Green.” To show the significance of the resolution, one by one, a group of city residents read a portion of the resolution in Vietnamese, Indian, Hindi, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and English. The group also presented council with a “welcoming” poster designed by Ethan Jordan. Beatriz Maya, of La Conexion, said other translations will be added to the city’s website as they become available. “This is a work in progress,” she said. Mayor Dick Edwards praised the translations shared at the meeting. “What a special way of touching all of our hearts,” he said. When City Council adopted the welcoming resolution earlier this year, council member Daniel Gordon pushed for the effort. “I’m very happy with the language that we have here,” Gordon said. Though the issue of illegal immigrant deportations is national, the city wants to take a stand, he said. “Council does not support seeing their families ripped apart.” Gordon said the resolution was written specifically with the immigrant population in mind. The city had recently passed an anti-Islamaphobia resolution, and already protected the LGBT community under a city ordinance. Though undocumented immigration is a national issue, council member John Zanfardino said the city needs to take a stand locally. “People are living with a new level of fear in Bowling Green and everywhere,” Zanfardino said earlier this year. “It’s a national nightmare.” On Tuesday evening, Gordon asked council to take a stand to defend DACA. “These people stand to be torn away from any home they have known,” he said. Gordon suggested that council send letters to U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. “This is something we all should be able to rally behind,” he said.