Maryland's Undocumented Immigrants: In Their Own Words - Southern Maryland Headline News

Maryland's Undocumented Immigrants: In Their Own Words



Nathaly Uribe Robledo, 22, came to the United States from Chile, and has spent much of her time advocating for her community through work with CASA and other organizations. (Photo provided by Nathaly Uribe Robledo.) Nathaly Uribe Robledo, 22, came to the United States from Chile, and has spent much of her time advocating for her community through work with CASA and other organizations. (Photo provided by Nathaly Uribe Robledo.)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Sept. 15, 2017)—While reports circulate that the Trump administration is closer to resolving questions left after last week's immigration announcement, Maryland's illegal immigrants— or "undocumented residents" in today's politically correct parlance—are uncertain of what comes next.

In conversations following the White House announcement, three of Maryland's "dreamers," as they are often called, told Capital News Service they are worried about their future without the legal protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

"When you're undocumented, the only thing you can rely on is your community," said Nathaly Uribe Robledo, 22, of Glen Burnie. "For a lot of us, this will be the first time that we will be living undocumented as adults with adult responsibilities."

Robledo arrived with her mother from Chile 20 years ago on tourist visas, she told Capital News Service.

"I've been here since I was 2 years old, and I have very little memory—if any—of Chile," she said. "All of my life and my memories, all of my special life events, have occurred here in the U.S."

"The main reason my parents decided to come to the U.S. was the lack of opportunity in Chile," Robledo continued. "There was so much economic instability in Chile, and coming to the U.S. meant a better opportunity for a better life."

DACA was created in 2012 under an executive order issued by President Barack Obama shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation and granting them two-year renewable work permits.

Since the program began, almost 800,000 people have been approved. To be eligible, immigrants had to be between the ages of 16 and 31 as of June 25, 2012. They also had to have lived in the United States since 2007, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Robledo applied for her first permit in 2012 and again when the program was briefly expanded to three-year stays in 2014. She applied most recently in July.

President Donald Trump on Sept. 5 gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution to address the program— thus allowing the issue to be publicly debated in the legislature in stark contrast to the current unilaterally issued executive order. New DACA applications will no longer be accepted but undocumented immigrants who are already covered can still apply for renewal, as long it is by Oct. 5.

"I can personally say that (with DACA) I finally felt like an average, normal American teenager," Robledo said.

She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, until financial struggles forced her to withdraw in 2014. Robledo was pursuing a double major in biology and political science with dreams of becoming a representative in Congress. She now works at an insurance agency in Baltimore.

"I'm very lucky, in a way, and privileged—which is kind of an oxymoron—to be in a situation where my friends are very supportive of me and my employer is very supportive," Robledo said.

The decision, while anticipated, felt "devastating" for Robledo.

"I know my parents have made it 20 years undocumented, and I know that I can make it if I try, but it will be hard," she said.

"I'm just so scared of the unknown because my whole life being undocumented so far has been while I was in school," she added. "It's already scary enough knowing that these are the years where you're supposed to set everything in motion for the rest of your life."

A coalition of leaders across the country has signed a pledge supporting the DACA recipients. Among those are many Maryland politicians, including 12 state senators and four mayors.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a joint statement Wednesday that Trump "agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides."

Trump disputed the account on Twitter, saying that "no deal was made last night on DACA."

"We cannot let the Trump Administration get away with tearing apart innocent families and wreaking havoc on our economy in Maryland," Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said in a Sept. 5 statement.

As of March, there were roughly 9,700 Marylanders enrolled in the DACA program, according to data from USCIS.

In Maryland, DACA-eligible dreamers are mainly found in three counties, based on 2016 data released by the Migration Policy Institute: Montgomery (roughly 8,000), Prince George's (6,000) and Baltimore (3,000).

The DACA-eligible population in Maryland accounts for about 9.5 percent of the state's total unauthorized population, said Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

The majority of DACA applicants in Maryland come from four countries: El Salvador (about 7,000 recipients), Mexico (5,000), Guatemala (4,000) and South Korea (2,000), per data from the institute.

'More than just Latinos'

Cindy Kolade, 24, originally from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, came to Baltimore with her mother when she was 12 years old. (Photo provided by Cindy Kolade.) Cindy Kolade, 24, originally from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, came to Baltimore with her mother when she was 12 years old. (Photo provided by Cindy Kolade.)

Cindy Kolade, 24, arrived in Baltimore shortly after her twelfth birthday with her mother from the Ivory Coast. Kolade said she will remain covered by DACA through February 2019.

"DACA gave me a little bit of the American dream because I was able to provide for myself and provide for my family," Kolade said. "With DACA, I'm able to help my mom with the bills."

She and her mother came straight to Maryland because "it's the only place I have family."

"Baltimore shaped me into the person I am today," she said. "I'm able to survive on my own and take care of myself."

Kolade works as a clinical lab assistant at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. In 2014, she transferred to Towson University from Baltimore Community College. She is still in school, majoring in molecular biology.

Kolade is registered under Maryland's DREAM Act and also under DACA, and received her first DACA work permit in October 2012.

In 2012, Maryland passed its own DREAM Act to make in-state tuition accessible for its undocumented residents, provided they attended previous schooling in Maryland.

"With DACA, I really thought I had it all for a minute," Kolade said. "But even though DACA doesn't give us the whole American dream…, at least it gave us a chance to go to school, work, and be part of the American society."

Trump's announcement has changed Kolade's thinking.

"You've given us something and you've taken it away from us," she said. "You still have to worry about what happens next. It doesn't matter if it's going to stop in March or two or three years from now. It's really devastating because you don't know how you're going to survive for yourself."

Kolade believes the administration's decision to rescind DACA is a sign that Trump doesn't understand that communities other than Latinos depend on the legal protections.

"Although (African populations) are a small minority, we still depend on DACA and still feel protected by it," Kolade said.

Brian Frosh, Maryland's attorney general, announced Monday that Maryland will join Minnesota, California and Maine in a lawsuit against the decision to end DACA.

"The callous and cavalier action taken by the Trump Administration will destroy the lives of many immigrants who were brought here as infants and toddlers, who love the United States of America, who pay taxes and abide by the law," Frosh said in a statement. "Ending the program would constitute a $509.4 million loss to the state's annual GDP."

Strength in Community

Jose Aguiluz, 28, was one of several hundred people gathered outside the White House awaiting the administration’s decision on Tuesday, Sept. 5th. (Photo by Helen Parshall) Jose Aguiluz, 28, was one of several hundred people gathered outside the White House awaiting the administration’s decision on Tuesday, Sept. 5th. (Photo by Helen Parshall)

"When I graduated from community college in Maryland in 2011, there was no DACA," said Jose Aguiluz, 28, a registered nurse from Silver Spring, who arrived from Honduras when he was 15.

"I had an associate's degree in nursing, but I was working as an electrician to pay my bills because it was the only job I could get," Aguiluz said. "Then DACA came along and changed my life completely within the span of four months."

Upon receiving his Social Security number and work permit, Aguiluz told Capital News Service, he found work in his field almost immediately.

"I went from being an electrician to having a job as an RN," he said. "After being able to work legally, I went back to school and got my bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Maryland University College."

Aguiluz had plans to continue his education, but is now at a loss because "pretty much everything has been placed on hold."

"I was looking at my work permit this morning, and I have a stay here until November of next year when my permit expires," he said.

In 2012, Aguiluz worked with advocates to pass Maryland's DREAM Act.

"It's really heartbreaking," he said. "I brought dreamers to the table to register, and now all that information is in the hands of the government. The Department of Homeland Security knows the phone numbers and addresses of all of us."

Since Trump's Sept. 5 decision, CASA, a local immigrants rights organization, is focused on helping dreamers get legal assistance before the final deadline.

"We are holding several DACA renewal clinics," said Fernanda Durand, CASA communications manager. The clinics "help the DACA recipients renew their DACA applications."

CASA will be holding three Maryland clinics before Oct. 5, said Durand: Sept. 16 and 30 in Langley Park and Sept. 23 in Baltimore.

Aguiluz is afraid of what so much rumor and confusion means for himself and other undocumented immigrants.

"We are in a particularly unsafe position," Aguiluz said. "They can just go through my door and get me. It's very stressful."

However, Aguiluz was smiling while talking to Capital News Service.

"I don't want to say that this is a sad occasion," he said. "From all the indications, we knew that this was going to happen. I'm here because of my community, the community that I built when we started fighting for the DREAM Act in 2012."

"Community is what keeps us in this fight together."

David Noss contributed to this article.

Transcript of Jeff Sessions' Remarks on Sept. 5 on Ending the DACA Program

Good morning. I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama Administration is being rescinded.

The DACA program was implemented in 2012 and essentially provided a legal status for recipients for a renewable two-year term, work authorization and other benefits, including participation in the social security program, to 800,000 mostly-adult illegal aliens.

This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.

In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.

We inherited from our Founders—and have advanced—an unsurpassed legal heritage, which is the foundation of our freedom, safety, and prosperity.

As the Attorney General, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the Constitutional order is upheld.

No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law. Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed.

Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty, and human suffering.

To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. That is an open border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.

Therefore, the nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted.

This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.

It is with these principles and duties in mind, and in light of imminent litigation, that we reviewed the Obama Administration's DACA policy.

Our collective wisdom is that the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognized with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision affirmed by the Fifth Circuit.

The Fifth Circuit specifically concluded that DACA had not been implemented in a fashion that allowed sufficient discretion, and that DAPA was "foreclosed by Congress's careful plan."

In other words, it was inconsistent with the Constitution's separation of powers. That decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court by an equally divided vote.

If we were to keep the Obama Administration's executive amnesty policy, the likeliest outcome is that it would be enjoined just as was DAPA. The Department of Justice has advised the President and the Department of Homeland Security that DHS should begin an orderly, lawful wind down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program.

Acting Secretary Duke has chosen, appropriately, to initiate a wind down process. This will enable DHS to conduct an orderly change and fulfill the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act—should it so choose. We firmly believe this is the responsible path.

Simply put, if we are to further our goal of strengthening the constitutional order and the rule of law in America, the Department of Justice cannot defend this type of overreach.

George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was clear about the enormous constitutional infirmities raised by these policies.

He said: "In ordering this blanket exception, President Obama was nullifying part of a law that he simply disagreed with…..If a president can claim sweeping discretion to suspend key federal laws, the entire legislative process becomes little more than a pretense…The circumvention of the legislative process not only undermines the authority of this branch but destabilizes the tripartite system as a whole."

Ending the previous Administration's disrespect for the legislative process is an important first step. All immigration policies should serve the interests of the people of the United States—lawful immigrant and native born alike.

Congress should carefully and thoughtfully pursue the types of reforms that are right for the American people. Our nation is comprised of good and decent people who want their government's leaders to fulfill their promises and advance an immigration policy that serves the national interest.

We are a people of compassion and we are a people of law. But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws.

Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.

The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, enforce our laws, and, if Congress chooses to make changes to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our Founders in a way that advances the interest of the nation.

That is what the President has promised to do and has delivered to the American people.

Under President Trump's leadership, this administration has made great progress in the last few months toward establishing a lawful and constitutional immigration system. This makes us safer and more secure.

It will further economically the lives of millions who are struggling. And it will enable our country to more effectively teach new immigrants about our system of government and assimilate them to the cultural understandings that support it.

The substantial progress in reducing illegal immigration at our border seen in recent months is almost entirely the product of the leadership of President Trump and his inspired federal immigration officers. But the problem is not solved. And without more action, we could see illegality rise again rather than be eliminated.

As a candidate, and now in office, President Trump has offered specific ideas and legislative solutions that will protect American workers, increase wages and salaries, defend our national security, ensure the public safety, and increase the general well-being of the American people.

He has worked closely with many members of Congress, including in the introduction of the RAISE Act, which would produce enormous benefits for our country. This is how our democratic process works.

There are many powerful interest groups in this country and every one of them has a constitutional right to advocate their views and represent whomever they choose.

But the Department of Justice does not represent any narrow interest or any subset of the American people. We represent all of the American people and protect the integrity of our Constitution. That is our charge.

We at Department of Justice are proud and honored to work to advance this vision for America and to do our best each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people.

Thank you.

Sponsored Content

Reader Comments

Featured Sponsor

Virtually Everything, Inc.
The company which proudly brings you So. Md. Online!

Follow SoMd HL News