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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida 'Dreamers' worry Obama-era protection will disappear

Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

Chris Urso | Times

Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.



Andrea Seabra imagined the worst if Donald Trump won: "I thought on the first day he would say, 'DACA is done' and send immigration officers to every house."

Trump had vowed to immediately rescind President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that has spared hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation.

Six months into his term, though, the government continues to grant new applicants and make renewals. "I'm still here," said Seabra, who lives near St. Petersburg.

Trump has aggressively moved on enforcement, rounding up hard criminals and minor offenders alike, stirring emotional debates in cities and towns across the country. At the same time he has shown restraint toward the young immigrants who arrived by no fault of their own and have little or no recollection of their homelands.

But there is growing uncertainty and Trump may be forced to take a stand. A group of Republican state attorneys general have issued an ultimatum: End DACA by Sept. 5 or face a lawsuit contending, as Trump said during the campaign, that the program is "unconstitutional executive amnesty."

Some lawmakers are working on a legislative remedy, but passage is unlikely with many conservatives in opposition and influential Republicans such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio staying on the sidelines.

About 800,000 people, nearly 33,000 in Florida, have been granted work permits under DACA.

They have obtained driver's licenses and, in some cases, in-state college tuition. They are protected from deportation but their status is by no means permanent; DACA permits must be renewed every two years.

The situation facing Trump illustrates how campaign promises can be hard to keep, especially those with human consequences, not unlike the GOP's struggles over repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"It's a decision that's very, very hard to make," Trump said earlier this month. "There are two sides of a story. It's always tough."

For the young immigrants, commonly known as Dreamers, the euphoria they felt when DACA began in 2012 has given way to reservations many had when signing up: Some day, it could all vanish.

"It's scary and sad," said Seabra, 30, who came to Florida from Peru with her mother at age 11, overstaying a visa. She graduated cum laude from St. Leo University in 2016 and this spring she got a job at a major accounting firm.

"At the end of the day, I don't have legal status other than DACA," said Seabra. "I have friends who have been here since they were 2 months old, babies, and they don't know anything but the United States.

"I could lose my job because my work permit would be revoked, my driver's license would be revoked and I would live in fear of deportation. Everything I know could disappear."

Full story here.

[Last modified: Friday, July 28, 2017 11:11am]


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