Oregon moves for more DACA protections

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, speaks to demonstrators Monday at the Oregon Capitol urging passage of the federal Dream Act.

SALEM — While undocumented adults brought to this country as children remain in limbo as the courts and Congress debate their futures, lawmakers in Oregon are taking additional steps to protect crucial parts of their lives.

Oregon legislators recently passed two bills to protect the ability of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to continue to access in-state tuition at state colleges and universities and to renew their driver’s licenses.

“We are not going to jeopardize the lives of so many young people in our state,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland. “We confirmed our commitment to them.”

Both DACA recipients’ resident tuition and driving privileges were jeopardized by President Trump’s decision to rescind the Obama-era program, effective Monday, March 5.

Dembrow announced Monday that he plans legislation for 2019 that would expand resident tuition to graduate study (current law applies only to undergraduate degrees) and remove barriers from DACA recipients obtaining professional licenses in Oregon.

Created by executive order in 2012, DACA allows undocumented adults brought to the United States as children to legally work and attend school.

Recent court decisions have blocked the termination of the program. As a result, Homeland Security continues to accept renewal applications for the program, but its future remains in question.

About 100 people demonstrated in front of the state Capitol on Monday to urge Congress to take action to give the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States — nearly 11,300 in Oregon — a permanent legal path to live, study and work in the country where they grew up. Scheduled to commemorate the expiration of DACA, the event was organized by Causa, an Oregon immigrant rights advocacy center, and the Oregon DACA Coalition.

“We want … to be able to contribute to our communities,” said Portland resident Ricardo Lujan-Valerio, a DACA recipient and recent graduate of Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He now works as legislative director for the Oregon Student Association.

“Although we passed great pieces of legislation (this year), this is not the end for this state to be a beacon of hope,” he said.

Gov. Kate Brown who spoke at the rally said “Dreamers” — the term often used for DACA recipients — are an “integral part” of Oregon’s community, culture and economy.

She vowed to continue fighting back against rollbacks of protections for Dreamers. The state is part of a multi-state lawsuit challenging the termination of DACA.

“We are the standard bearers of liberty, justice and civil rights, and Oregon will remain a welcoming place for all that call our state home,” she said.

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