RACINE — The immigration ball is now in Congress’ court as the Oct. 5 deadline for eligible recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has expired. So what’s next?

On Sept. 5, the Trump administration announced that the DACA program, which protects those who came to the United States illegally as children from deportation, will end and gave Congress had six months from that time, until March 5, to come up with a solution.

DACA recipients whose status was going to expire before March 5 needed to renew their application by Oct. 5, which put local immigration lawyers to work.

“All we did was crank out DACA renewals as fast as we could,” said Barb Graham, immigration attorney for Catholic Charities in Milwaukee.

Graham said she travels to Racine weekly to help area immigrants with legal issues.

Although the flood of people looking to renew their DACA status didn’t hit their office right away, Graham said they were able to renew 60 applications, which meant all the paperwork needed to be at immigration offices in Washington by Oct. 5.

“If (the DACA status) expired in April 2018 or May, you couldn’t renew it,” Graham said. “You literally had to have it expire between the day it was announced and March 5, 2018. If it expired March 10 or 12, you can’t renew.”

For those left in immigration limbo, it has become a waiting game to see if President Donald Trump or Congress will come up with a solution.

“Let’s face it, immigration reform is immensely complicated, there’s so many facets that could be immigration reform beyond what is DACA … I don’t think Congress is cognizant of what those things could be,” Graham said. “It’s certainly no simpler than trying to redo the tax code.”

They’ve ‘done nothing wrong’

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a Sept. 5 statement that there will be a compromise on DACA which “will include border security and enforcement so that we don’t wind up with another DACA problem 10 years down the road.”

“At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know,” Ryan’s statement says. “Their status is one of many immigration issues … which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years. It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find a consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”

Preparing for the worst

Valeria Ruiz, a Racine resident and DACA recipient, was not eligible to renew her DACA status.

“I’ve always prepared for the worst,” Ruiz said. “(But) I’ve always been really positive that something is going to happen.”

Ruiz works for Voces de la Frontera, a immigrant activist group, and has been pushing for a legislative solution.

She also has been helping renew the DACA statuses for those who were eligible.

But for her own well-being, Ruiz has leaned on her family for support “because we don’t know what’s going to happen; I wasn’t able to qualify — I don’t know what my next steps are going to be.”

Until a solution is enacted in DACA’s place, Ruiz said the near future is going to be “active months and months of pushing back.”

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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