Three civic leaders shared the problems and some possible solutions for Utah’s undocumented immigrants during a recent workshop at Salt Lake Community College’s South City Campus.
Utah Democratic Party vice chairwoman Josie Valdez, Comunidades Unidas executive director Luis Garza and Westminster College sociology professor Julie Stewart were asked questions regarding how undocumented status affects people who want to work and how undocumented workers contribute to the economy.
Mark Bearnson, a political science student, organized the event in partnership with Una Mano Amiga, an SLCC peer mentoring program.
Valdez gave a brief history of how undocumented workers have grown to such a large population in the United States. Through her work with former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson she learned how many large corporations lobbied to make immigration a non-priority so they could build their workforce.
Garza, whose organization helps undocumented workers get healthcare, talked about how many stereotypes about undocumented workers are not true.
One of the biggest myths is that immigrants come to the United States to get free healthcare and food stamps. The truth is that without the proper documentation an immigrant isn’t getting food stamps or Medicaid, Garza says.
Stewart, through speaking with many students, says she has discovered that students who aren’t citizens have to work twice as hard as the students who are. Financial aid and other resources are not available to undocumented students so they have to pay for college out of their own pockets.
That’s why Utah’s HB144 and the federal programs titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, also known as DAPA, are so important, Stewart says.
DACA and DAPA are programs that directly affect immigrant families. DACA gives young adults who were brought into the United States as children the chance to postpone deportation and apply for work permits. DAPA would grant deportation protection to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens.
Under a directive from the secretary of Department of Homeland Security, these immigrants may be granted a type of temporary permission to stay in the U.S. called “deferred action.”
President Obama expanded DACA and introduced DAPA last November with the idea of keeping undocumented families together and helping skilled or college-ready immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy.
A recent injunction has halted the implementation of DAPA and expansion of DACA; the 2012 version of the DACA program will remain in place. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Individuals may continue to come forward and request an initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA under the guidelines established in 2012.”
Utah is one of the states that joined the legal challenge of DAPA and DACA.