Just days into his term, President Joe Biden has moved swiftly on a couple of fronts in addressing immigration issues. Immigrants in Connecticut call Biden’s efforts to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program a great first step. They’ve also welcomed the announcement from the Department of Homeland Security of a 100-day moratorium on deportations.
While advocates are relieved, they have lingering concerns about who will be protected under the temporary pause and what the next steps for DACA will be.
The DACA program protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Under a memorandum issued by Biden, the Department of Homeland Security can take action it deems appropriate to “preserve and fortify” DACA. It is still not clear how the current administration will change the program that came under such scrutiny during the Trump years.
Cristian Padilla Romero arrived from Honduras when he was 7 years old. Romero, a doctoral student at Yale who is a DACA recipient, says he’s undoubtedly happy to hear of Biden’s executive action, calling it a step in the right direction.
“It’s interesting to see [Biden] say ‘fortify,’ but I don't know what that means yet. Or if there is going to be an additional element added to the program,” said Romero.
Romero’s mother, Tania Romero, was detained in 2019, placed in a detention center and nearly deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She is under a stay of removal for another year, which allows her to remain in the U.S. at the discretion of ICE.
“We’re hoping that with this administration, the pathway for her permanent release might be more possible. Maybe something else could be nondiscretionary through the executive government, but it’s still sort of unclear at the moment,” said Romero.
Barbara Lopez, director of immigrant rights organization Make the Road Connecticut, said she’s cautiously optimistic about the recent announcement on deportations. Lopez says there is a need to undo harm done to the undocumented community under the Trump administration.
“Trump was really building an unfair and an inhumane and just reenacting a very dysfunctional immigration system,” said Lopez.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the deportation moratorium pauses the removal of certain non-citizens issued a deportation order by an immigration judge for 100 days. The department will move resources to the southwest border, and its temporary priorities will be responding to threats of national and border security and public safety.
Constanza Segovia is a member of Hartford’s Deportation Defense Committee, a network of families impacted by deportations that was established right before Trump was elected to office. She says the announcement is positive for many families, but she remains wary about who is actually protected.
"We have to be super careful because we must really look into what they mean when they say, except those with ‘X, Y and Z’ because it’s very easy to create a blanket category of people,” said Segovia.
The moratorium will not apply to immigrants who arrived after Nov. 1 or those who have voluntarily given up their right to stay in the U.S. It also doesn’t apply to incarcerated individuals, those convicted of an aggravated felony, or anyone who poses a threat to national security.
Segovia worries that immigrants of color who may come into contact with the criminal justice system may be left out of this protection.
“We still think that [ICE] needs to be abolished,” Segovia said. “The terror that it inflicts on the immigrant community, which includes a lot of U.S. citizens who are friends and family of people who don’t have papers, is a long-term effect that we won’t fix from day to night. But I think the sooner we completely dismantle that system, the more of a chance we’ll have to heal from its impact.”
As Biden begins to deliver on his campaign promises, advocates say they’ll continue to press for stronger protections. Anghy Idrovo is the co-executive leader of Connecticut Students for a Dream, a youth-led statewide organization that advocates for undocumented young people and families. Idrovo is currently undocumented and agreed that while the announcements are a great start, she hopes that Biden’s actions mark the beginning of broader immigration reform.
“We will be fighting and continuing to organize. I’m looking forward for the president and our community to fight for citizenship for the 11 million of undocumented immigrants in the United States, because that’s what we need,” said Idrovo.
Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.