Professor hosts DACA information session

Baylor's Laura Hernández, professor and founder of the Baylor Law Immigration Clinic, led an information session for Baylor DACA students Sept. 7 in the Hankamer Business building. Photo credit: Baylee Versteeg

By Molly Atchison | Print Managing Editor

Laura Hernández, professor and founder of the Baylor Law Immigration Clinic, offered students affected directly and indirectly by the removal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy a glimmer of hope during their DACA information session.

Hernández was a litigator for 11 years prior to her employment at Baylor, and during the information session she walked students through the legal side of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, and how Baylor students who may be affected by the decision should react and prepare for any decision the Trump administration and Congress may make. Hernández explained that when former president Barack Obama implemented the DACA policy, no formal act was passed through Congress. This makes the policy temporary, and explains why President Trump can phase it out.

“When he put the policy in place, Obama was hoping that Congress would act earlier, passing some sort of legislation making DACA more permanent,” Hernández said.

She continued to explain that in order to stop the “phasing-out” plan from taking effect on March 5, 2018, Congress would need to pass a law that allowed the children affected by this, nicknamed “dreamers,” to stay under a conditional residency visa. Luckily for the dreamers, this legislation is already written. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) along with bipartisan efforts from senators, including Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) have drafted Senate Bill 1615, which would allow dreamers to stay in the U.S. if they meet specific requirements. Because this bill is already drafted, Congress is already one step closer to action in response to Trump’s rescindment policy.

While she was hopeful based on this information, Hernández still cautioned students to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. She explained that as of now, there is a time limit for DACA renewal, and in order to be eligible for renewal, the DACA cardholder’s card must expire between now and March 15, 2018.

“The deadline for renewal submissions is October 5, so we are urging Baylor students that are DACA cardholders to file their renewal request as soon as possible,” Hernández said. “If you know someone or need to renew yours, let the Baylor Law Immigration Clinic know. We are absolutely going to help Baylor students; as long as you pay the renewal fee, we will do all the paperwork.”

Hernández also took the time to explain what options DACA cardholders have in the event that the rescindment does take place.

“You do not lose all constitutional protection once you lose [your] authorizations,” she said.

She reminded students that although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is more active now than it was in the past, they still cannot search anyone’s person or home without a warrant, no matter their citizenship status.

Several different advocacy organizations are looking to encourage action against Trump’s decision Hernández said, including the Waco Immigrants Alliance and La Puerta Waco, which is launching in October. Hernández also said that in the event that DACA is fully rescinded, the Law Immigration Clinic will immediately be filing paperwork for the DACA cardholders they work with to apply for a conditional residency visa.

“Being a part of the Baylor community has benefits. You are not alone in this,” she said.

Mark Bryant, the director of the international student and scholar services at the Baylor Center for Global Engagement, offered support as well.

“The Center for Global Engagement works with international students, and there tends to be some overlap with DACA cardholders,” he said. “We want to work as a resource and referral center for students who may be affected by this.”

As students filed out of Hankamer, some were crying on their friends’ shoulders, distraught by the possibility of losing their home or the ones they love. Others held new conviction, and a hope that they could help the community around them. Keller senior Chelsea Strawn had some words of wisdom for students. “Baylor students should keep in mind that they attend a Christian university, and that even in Scripture, Christians are referred to as refugees themselves.”

At the next THIS Matters student forum run by the Baylor Diversity and Inclusion program, they will be speaking about DACA, and hearing from students about their experiences and how the Baylor community can help.