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DACA Applications From Iowa At A Standstill

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2019, file photo people rally outside the Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard in the case of President Trump's decision to end the Obama-era, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), at the Supreme Court in Washington. DACA recipients are assuming a prominent role in the presidential campaign, working to get others to vote, even though they cannot cast ballots themselves, and becoming leaders in the Democratic campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer as well as get-out-the-vote organizations.
Jacquelyn Martin
AP file
People rally outside the Supreme Court in 2019 as oral arguments are heard in the case of President Trump's decision to end the Obama-era, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), at the Supreme Court in Washington.

People in Iowa who either just applied for or were about to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are now in a state of limbo.

A federal judge in Texas ruled DACA was unconstitutional last Friday. This means no new DACA applications will be processed and now it’s a waiting game, according to co-legal director of nonprofit organization Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice Jody Mashek. Current DACA recipients still have the protected status and can continue to renew.

"I think people are just tired. I mean, this is not new. Based on what I'm hearing, it's just kind of like, 'Yeah, what else is new?' Like, DACA has just been so all over the place for four years. And there's been so many times when we thought: Okay, this is it," Mashek said.

As Mashek mentioned, this is not DACA's first court appearance, nor will it be the last, as the case can still go through the appeals process.

The U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling in 2020 that essentially upheld DACA. However, the decision wasn't ruling on the constitutionality of the program, rather about on the administrative procedures required to challenge it.

Mashek said people can still apply for DACA, but their applications won’t go anywhere.

"It's got to be excruciating for people who have an initial application pending. Probably a little scary too, they've voluntarily submitted their information to the federal government, when maybe the federal government most likely did not have any knowledge of them," she said.

Mashek estimated there are a little more than 20 people on just her organization’s waiting list to apply for DACA. She acknowledged that number is most likely much larger as hers isn't the only organization that helps people apply. Also, she said that number doesn't factor in the number of people who don't know about DACA assistance programs.

Right now, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice is waiting for more guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

For an example, Mashek said, they're not quite sure about where applicants would fall if their status expired.

"I'm wondering how is it to be treated, you know? As the initial application that it is or if you know, because you had in the past..." Maskek trailed off. "There's a lot of stuff that remains up in the air."

As of March 2020, there were 2420 active DACA recipients in the state. In 2019, it's estimated 60 percent of those eligible for DACA actually applied to the program.

President Joe Biden said in a written press release: "Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing. While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future. The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA."

Biden, along with Mashek, urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow a path to citizenship for DACA recipients (this includes the American Dream and Promise Act). Congress has the authority to make the program U.S. law.

To apply for DACA, an applicant must pay $495. That money, Mashek said, if they already paid, will sit with their application.

"Those are hard decisions to make. And there's really nothing that helps make that decision. So you just kind of kind of go with your gut instinct and what you think is going to be best and hopefully, you know, speak to an attorney, or a Department of Justice accredited representative who can kind of help you guide those decisions," she said.

Mashek emphasized this decision, and the future of DACA, affects all of Iowa's communities.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines