Scott Ball / Rivard Report
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) is joining forces with a California Democrat to introduce a bipartisan bill that would establish a permanent DACA fix and improve border security.
Hurd and U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California) on Tuesday are announcing a measure that Hurd said takes a "narrow approach" to immigration reform and border security.
"This is something that proves that Republicans and Democrats can work together," Hurd told the Rivard Report, adding that 40 lawmakers from both sides of aisle have signaled support for the bill. "We should take a narrow approach to this problem, not try to do it comprehensively…Congress has proven that it is not very good at doing comprehensive [legislation]."
The bill will address border security in a "smart wall concept" that allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to assess the border mile by mile. Hurd said one of the problems the country has faced with border security is not looking at all 2,000 miles of the border at the same time.
"We deserve to have all the tools in our toolbox when securing the border," Hurd said.
His announcement comes on the same day that the Trump Administration announced it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a temporary injunction by a judge on the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in California that staved the government's attempts to dismantle the program.
Hurd said he is open to adding more elements to the bill through the legislative process but wants to start with a narrow focus.
The DACA program allowed undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country to work or study. About 113,000 Texas residents, commonly referred to as "Dreamers," were estimated to be protected by DACA.
On Jan. 8, Hurd announced he had reached an agreement with Aguilar to fix the DACA program while also increasing border security, a priority that President Donald Trump had made made a condition for preserving DACA.
On Jan. 9, a federal judge in California issued a stop on the Trump administration's order to end DACA. U.S. District Judge William Alsup wrote a decision allowing Dreamers to continue applying for the renewal of status while DACA-related lawsuits are still ongoing.
The Department of Homeland Security responded to Alsup's decision by reopening the DACA renewal application process for eligible candidates. The department is only accepting renewal applications at this time.
“Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017,” DHS’ statement said on Jan. 13.
The most recent data from the Department of Homeland Security shows Texas is home to the second highest number of DACA recipients. This data reflects individuals who were granted DACA status as of Sept. 4, 2017. The same data shows San Antonio as home to approximately 5,600 DACA recipients, placing San Antonio in the top 25 U.S. cities.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced plans to appeal Alsup's decision directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hurd said he was not prepared to comment on the Justice Department's announcement on Tuesday.
With a turbulent path forward for DACA applicants, local schools and universities are offering services to help students and stakeholders understand federal changes to the law.
Last year, the University of the Incarnate Word hosted a presentation for students entitled "What Now? DACA & Dreamers Presentation" with Alvillar Law, PC immigration attorney Francisco Alvillar advising students on options for Dreamers under changing federal guidelines.
Alsup's decision will have some significant ramifications for Dreamers whose DACA status has lapsed or is about to lapse, Alvillar said.
"If you have ever had DACA before and for whatever reason it had lapsed – sometimes you had individuals who weren't able to pay the renewal fees for a significant period of time or just didn't get around to it – they are included," he said.
Alvillar's office has been getting back in touch with Dreamers who had previously contacted his office to initiate a renewal application. He is even considering filing renewal applications for Dreamers well in advance of their status lapsing to provide additional time with deferred action.
"I would say it is better to address DACA now rather than later...because you could have a court review it and find the government as right in their argument," Alvillar said alluding to the fact that an appeals court could overturn Alsup's temporary restraining order.
San Antonio ISD hosted trainings in the fall with school counselors, family liaison specialists, social workers, and college advisors to arm them with facts and resources related to DACA, Executive Director of SAISD Student Support Services Victoria Bustos said.
More than 200 SAISD staffers participated in trainings on long-term implications of DACA and how to support undocumented students. Bustos said a major focus of these trainings is reinforcing Plyler vs. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court case stating every child, regardless of immigration status, has a right to a K-12 education. Another focus is understanding the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that prohibits schools and districts from providing information about a student to anyone without obtaining parental consent first.
"This is especially important for customs and immigration, should that arise," Bustos said.
School districts in San Antonio follow FERPA guidelines and do not release information about the number of students enrolled in DACA. Most universities do the same, although Alamo Colleges officials stated approximately 1,000 Dreamers are enrolled within the Alamo Colleges District, based on 2016 enrollment numbers.
Alamo Colleges' statement called Dreamers "dedicated and highly motivated students" who maintain a college retention rate of 89.2 percent and productive grade rate of 76.5 percent.
Hurd said he recognized that changes at the national level to DACA left Dreamers "on pins and needles," but he wanted them to know "there are many people up here in Washington, D.C., that recognize the concern and are trying to solve the problem."