Local DACA recipients look to uncertain future

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to rule on DACA, meaning the program will continue past President Trump’s March 5 deadline. But questions remain about DACA’s future long term.

President Trump rescinded DACA in September 2017. Judges overturned that, so renewals are being processed for now.

But experts say the program is still vulnerable.

Brandon Maldonado is a local DACA recipient. Now 23, his parents brought him and his sister to the United States from Guatemala 13 years ago as undocumented immigrants.

“My family, we would be torn apart,” Maldonado said about the prospect of DACA being rescinded. “I just got married so I would have to lose my wife.”

The future for his family, like many others, is unknown because DACA is caught in a heated political battle.

“The Democrats are being totally unresponsive, they don't want to do anything about DACA,” President Trump told a crowd at CPAC last week. “It's very possible that DACA won’t happen.”

An added complication, Maldonado has a brother who was born in the United States. He worries, if no permanent solution is reached, his family could be separated.

“I can’t even go there. I haven’t got that far,” he said.

The Migration Policy Institute shows, nationwide, 689,800 people are DACA recipients. In Indiana, that’s 9,000 people.

“Their presence, frankly, has been uncertain since probably their entry into this country, and this is an issue that we have ignored, frankly, for decades,” said Jenifer Brown, an immigration attorney and partner at Ice Miller LLP.

Brown says keeping DACA alive or finding a permanent solution is the only path forward.

“We have people who entered the country illegally, and what they were fleeing I don’t know, a thousand different things, perhaps. Very valid, legitimate concerns,” Brown said. “And I wonder what any of us would do if faced with similar circumstances.”

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 73 percent of American voters support legislation to allow Dreamers to remain in the United States legally; 21 percent opposed that.

Maldonado says he fears deportation to Guatemala, the place where he was born, but has few memories.

“I have no idea how to start over, over there,” he said.

The next spending bill deadline is March 23. It’s unknown if lawmakers will add a permanent DACA solution to that.