Jessica Colotl, who advocated for DACA, just had it taken away again.
In September, the Trump administration brutally up-ended the lives of some 800,000 young people who have lived in America since they were children. After months of telling Dreamers they “should rest easy” about being allowed to stay, President Trump’s promises turned out to mean nothing. The administration announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which for years has permitted young undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children to live and work here without fear.
As a result, starting next March, scores of Dreamers will begin losing their status as their DACA and work permits expire, at a rate of1,400 people a day. Yet even on the day of the announcement, President Trump told Dreamers they had “nothing to worry about” — DACA’s protections would stay in place for six months while Congress worked on a legislative solution.
That promise has proved to be empty again and again. Just this week, the administration denied our client Jessica Colotl’s application to renew her DACA status and work permit. Jessica was one of the first undocumented young people to go public with her status back in 2010, and her story helped rally the movement that convinced the Obama administration to create the DACA program.
In May, the government stripped Jessica of her DACA status, without giving her any advance notice, explanation, or opportunity to respond. After she filed a lawsuit challenging the decision, administration officials said that it had denied her renewal application because she supposedly had a felony conviction. The problem is that Jessica does not have a felony conviction on her record — which the government was ultimately forced to admit in court.
A federal court order, won by the ACLU and its partners, required the government to give Jessica’s renewal application a fair hearing under the rules of the DACA program. But instead of complying, the government is doubling down on its position, saying without any further explanation that Jessica’s DACA status cannot be renewed because officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement are “actively pursuing” her deportation.
This is insane. People like Jessica are the reason DACA was created — because, as even President Trump claims to recognize, these young people should not be priorities for deportation. Jessica has lived in the United States since her family moved here from Mexico in 1999, when she was 11 years old. She graduated from Lakeside High School in DeKalb County, Georgia, with honors and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kennesaw State University in 2011, where she was named to the President’s List based on her academic performance. She was also a founding member of her college’s chapter of the Lambda Theta Alpha sorority. Jessica aspires to attend law school and become an immigration lawyer, and she has continued to volunteer actively in the community.
In fact, the administration’s own policies say, sensibly, that Jessica and people like her shouldn’t have a target on their backs. Former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly’s memo on priorities specifically exempts DACA recipients.
For seven years, the federal government granted Jessica permission to live and work in the United States in the form of “deferred action” — including two extensions under DACA. Nothing has changed about Jessica to disqualify her from DACA; the only thing that’s changed is who sits in the White House.
Today the ACLU is returning to court to win Jessica’s DACA back. But even that solution is temporary. Jessica’s ordeal reflects the impossibly cruel situation young immigrants and their families find themselves in today. The limbo Jessica is living now – unable to work or drive, fearful if she’s going to be deported from the country she knows as home – shows what happens when people’s lives are left to the whims of an administration that displays its indifference toward those lives on a daily basis.
That’s why it’s critical that Congress act immediately to pass the Dream Act – the only way to provide Jessica and Dreamers like her the security and freedom they deserve.