Laramie, Wyo. - Organizers of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) symposium in Laramie Saturday, Feb. 24, want to educate the public about the realities of the program.
The symposium, free and open to the public, is in the University of Wyoming Conference Center. Events begin with coffee and pastries at 8 a.m., followed by the conference’s program at 8:30 a.m. The event will conclude at about 4:45 p.m. UW’s American Studies Program is the primary sponsor of the event, with additional support from UW’s School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice, Social Justice Research Center and the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research.
DACA is an immigration policy that has allowed individuals who entered the country as minors -- and either entered or remained in the country illegally -- to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for work permits. As of 2017, about 800,000 individuals were enrolled in the program created by DACA, with approximately 900 living in Wyoming. The policy was established by the Obama administration in June 2012 and rescinded by the Trump administration last September.
The policy is currently in the hands of Congress, which is debating the issue.
Organizers of the Laramie event have put together a full day of speakers/panels to discuss the issue. The two co-chairs are longtime advocate for undocumented students Lilia Soto, a UW American studies and history associate professor, and Travis Helm, a Laramie immigration attorney and UW graduate.
One UW student has been on the forefront of the DACA issue: Jose Rivas, a graduate student from Gillette, who also is on the organizing committee. Rivas has basically been “the face of DACA” for Wyoming residents. He has attended several conferences on the issue, while giving numerous interviews to national media outlets on the subject.
He says the symposium is important to him because it will bring awareness to the UW campus and Wyoming, and it will be a good opportunity to educate people. Most important, he says, is to understand the facts, adding that many Americans are misinformed when it comes to DACA.
“Some think it is amnesty, and it is anything but that. There is no path to citizenship, let alone a path for legal permanent residency,” Rivas says.
Soto will discuss the importance of DACA and will provide links to other groups that have been affected by the Trump administration and a way for students to make connections. Helm will explain the legal history of DACA and where the policy stands.
Among other events scheduled are undocumented students telling personal stories; how UW is responding to DACA and how the university is assisting students; the lack of financial aid for DACA students; and the DACA issue in Wyoming.
The issue is timely, organizers say, because when Trump ended DACA, he created a March 5 deadline for protections to end. That deadline was scheduled to give Congress time to act to save the program. But, while lawmakers have continued to use that date as a target, court action and the realities of the program have made meeting any deadline unclear. As a result, there is no date that the protections will actually run out for DACA recipients who came to the U.S. as children, but uncertainty remains about whether they could be deported at any time.
The local event will give the DACA conference committee an opportunity to put a “human face and story to the immigration debate,” Rivas says.
“I feel like, sometimes, we are left out of the conversation when it comes to creating policy and legislation. It will give a voice to those who are directly impacted here at UW and at a statewide level,” he adds.
The committee hopes the public attends to show its support for undocumented students.
“Sometimes, residents ask how they can help this movement. At this symposium, we will discuss some ways these folks can get involved. I hope this event also will affirm the support that UW has given to its students,” Rivas says. “The symposium is important because it gives students, like myself, something to relate to educationally and professionally. What better way than to apply our own experiences in an academic forum? Representation matters when it comes to educational development.”
RSVPs are requested to attend the symposium by calling Sophia Beck, American Studies Program and history department office associate, at (307) 766-3898 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.