The Dream in limbo for local students

Miami college students are among the nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants in the country who face uncertainty since the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

A couple of Barry University students, Swany Fernandez and Kahelia Smellie, who are concerned about the plight of their peers, will host a discussion and conference that explores how South Floridians can get involved and help.

Fernandez and Smellie, members of Barry University’s student-run newspaper, The Barry Buccaneer, decided to host “What Happens to a Dream Deferred” to explore the effects of the repeal on the school’s community.

They were inspired to put together the conference after writing a story about the policy change. They encountered difficulties when they couldn’t get a “Dreamer” on campus who was willing to speak.

Dreamers is a term given to children who were brought into the United States illegally with their parents years ago. During the Obama Administration, they were granted protection from deportation.

However, on Sept. 4, the Trump Administration announced the termination of the program. Trump gave Congress six months to review the decision and come up with a legislation that will allow the Dreamers to stay.

Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III, and Miramar Mayor Wayne M. Messam are among the eight mayors of major Florida cities who signed a letter asking the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that will continue the protections for the Dreamers.

With the fifth-largest DACA eligible population, Florida had 33,000 recipients from August 2012 to March 31, 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.

“With Barry being the most diverse university in the state, if we are not talking about this issue then we are remiss,” said Tiffani Knowles, adjunct professor and advisor for the Buccaneer. “The school has several international students, sons and daughters of immigrants and is adjacent to Little Haiti and North Miami, which have large immigrant populations.”

Fernandez said she hopes the conference will motivate immigrants to come forward.

“I like the fact that we are bringing the story to life,” she said.

Fernandez also migrated from Cuba when she was 5 and said she knows her opportunities would be “limited” if her parents did not leave the island.

The conference will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at the David Brinkley TV Studio in Garner Hall on Barry’s campus, 11300 NE Second Ave. The event will be an open forum for those immigrants and others to tell their stories.

It will feature a panel and a Q&A session with professors, attorneys and politicians including North Miami’s mayor, Dr. Smith Joseph and Americans for Immigrant Justice attorney, Michelle Ortiz.

“The state of Florida gives in-state tuition to ‘Dreamers,’ so the loss of DACA could mean a loss to this benefit, also it leaves them to wonder what would happen after graduation,” said Ortiz.

Although DACA recipients remain classified as undocumented, they can earn work permits, obtain driver’s license and pay taxes. With the program’s end, the students will be forced to return to their countries.

To be eligible for the program, the applicants would have to be under 16 years old and consistently living in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and at least 30 on the same date in 2012 among other requirements. Under the repeal of DACA, the Department of Homeland Security has stopped considering new applications for the program but will allow DACA status until the end of the two-year authorization period.

This story was originally published in the Miami Times on Oct 18, 2017.

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