Commentary

On DACA’s anniversary, a Dreamer dreams of a path to citizenship for all | Wednesday Morning Coffee

June 16, 2021 7:11 am

Mitzi Colin Lopez, of Coatesville, Pa. (submitted photo)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Depending on the presidential administration, some years are more stressful than others for Mitzi Colin Lopez and her family.

Just a few years ago, for instance, when former President Donald Trump and his administration unsuccessfully tried to topple the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Colin Lopez, who was just three years old when her family brought her to the United States from Mexico, wondered if she might see so many of her dreams disappear along with it.

“It was disheartening being so close to my goal to being the first in my family to graduate from college. I would check the news every day,” Colin Lopez, of Coatesville, told the Capital-Star on Tuesday. “That sense of security was just gone.”

In 2015, Colin Lopez enrolled in the DACA program, which allows some individuals with “unlawful presence” after being brought to the U.S. as children to receive deferred action from deportation and a work permit for two years, subject to renewal. While she remains undocumented, the program allowed her to obtain a drivers’ license, and other critical identification.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Obama-era program to continue — although the Trump White House declined to process new, first-time applications, leaving hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people in legal limbo.

Because Colin Lopez, 21, had entered the program earlier, she was able to finish her studies at West Chester University. She graduated this spring with twin degrees in political science and computer science. She’s working for an internet marketing company in the Philadelphia area as she contemplates her future.

And as the DACA program rings in its ninth anniversary this week, Colin Lopez is looking to President Joe Biden’s White House and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a policy goal that has seemingly defied solution for decades.

Mitzi Colin Lopez (submitted photo)

There is a legislative vehicle, the American Dream and Promise Act — which already has passed the majority-Democrat U.S. House but is awaiting action in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have the most slender of majorities — that would offer a pathway to citizenship.

If approved finally, the bill would allow DACA recipients and other unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 18 to apply, for a 10-year conditional permanent residency, according to Insider.

Applicants would qualify for such status if they earned a college degree, attended a bachelor’s program for two years, served in the military for two years, or worked in the United States for three years, Insider reported.

More than 2 million Dreamers, such as Colin Lopez, stand to benefit if the bill becomes law, but she said she wants to make sure that doesn’t take the spotlight off the millions more who are not part of the program, such as her parents, who both are undocumented.

“It’s been 30 years that there hasn’t been comprehensive immigration reform. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States,” she said. “They pay taxes, they work. They’re regular people.”

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background.

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background.
WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomascastelazo.

And Dreamers such as Colin Lopez are now watching as the Biden White House pursues its immigration goals. During a speech to a joint session of Congress in April, Biden called on lawmakers to at least make DACA permanent even if they rejected his other reforms, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“If you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on,” Biden said at the time.

Vice President Kamala Harris, meanwhile, was set to meet Tuesday with a group of five Dreamers on Tuesday, even as a federal court judge in Texas weighs another legal challenge to the law, according to USA TodayHarris, who has taken point for the administration on immigration issues, was to use the session as an occasion for Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act.

The current logjam is particularly precarious for Colin Lopez and her family, and others like hers, where there is mixed immigration status. Her older brother, who is 23, and a younger sister, 11, both are American citizens, and must worry whether their family could be torn apart because of a shift in the political or legal winds.

“… It’s not fair not knowing if your family members are going to come home or not because they’re going to be detained,” she said.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Election officials and advocates see some things to like — but a lot to raise eyebrows — in the Pa. House GOP’s election reform bill, Stephen Caruso reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration is over, and to-go cocktails are ending with it — at least until lawmakers approve a bill that allows sales to continueMarley Parish reports.

Documents obtained by the U.S. House Oversight Committee showed that former President Donald Trump wanted his Justice Department to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to order a half dozen states, including Pennsylvania, to hold new presidential elections and to bar them from casting their electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden. Jeremy Duda, of our sibling site, the Arizona Mirror, has this story, with an assist from me.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic allies in the General Assembly have rolled out their latest push to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. Our summer intern, Shaniece Holmes-Brown, has the details.

From our ‘Famous Last Words’ Desk: Pennsylvania’s utility providers have told state regulators that they won’t have any problem meeting energy demands this summerCassie Miller reports.

Business leaders and advocates in Philadelphia say they want the city to pump $20 million in federal stimulus money into helping Black businesses and the Black community rebuild after the pandemic, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

Teachers nationwide are coming under pressure as politicians and parents battle over ‘critical race theory,’ Capital-Star National Correspondent Dan Vock reports, with an assist from me.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Marc Stier of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center, says this year’s state budget should prioritize people over the powerful. And Penn State experts say the spike in opioid deaths in the Keystone State during the pandemic calls for a more holistic approach to managing public health emergencies.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via pxHere.com)

Elsewhere.
plan to cut Philadelphia’s parking tax has collapsed, the Inquirer reports.
Acting state Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson says Pennsylvania can still hit its 70 percent vaccination goal by month’s end, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive looks at Pennsylvania’s role in the nationwide fight over transgender rights.
Lancaster County’s 16 school superintendents have sent a letter to state Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancasteropposing his school reform billLancasterOnline reports.
Legislation that would end extended pandemic unemployment benefits could be taken up in the Capitol, the Morning Call reports.
A Luzerne County judge has rejected a recount push stemming from the May 18 primary election, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by JoJo (@jojo_in_pittsburgh)

In a special report, Philly DA Larry Krasner has found ‘horrendous abuses of power,’ among cops and prosecutors, WHYY-FM reports.
A letter from state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, that makes ‘numerous’ false claims about the 2020 election has surfaced in a congressional probe of the causes of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, WITF-FM reports.
GoErie talks to Erie’s Catholic bishop about whether President Joe Biden should receive communion.
Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone has slammed a state audit of his office’s community service program for criminal defendants, questioned its overall accuracy, and dismissed one part of it as ‘disingenuous,’ the Observer-Reporter reports.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, has ruled out a 2022 U.S. Senate bid.
Roll Call 
profiles the four states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina — that could determine control of Congress in 2022.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. today.
9 a.m., Hearing Room 1 North Office Building: Senate Majority Policy Committee
9 a.m., Capitol Steps: ‘PA Got Paid, Now Where’s Our Aid?’ rally calling on lawmakers to spend stim money to help urban communities.
9 a.m., 515 Irvis: Local Government Commission
9:30 a.m., Senate Chamber: Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee
10 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, and others call for aid for fixing schools with lead contamination and other toxins.
10 a.m., B31 Main Capitol: House Education Committee
10 a.m, 60 East Wing: House Insurance Committee
10 a.m., Senate Chamber: Senate Game & Fisheries Committee
10 a.m, 523 Irvis: House Local Government Committee
10:30 a.m, Senate Chamber: Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee
12 p.m., Capitol Steps: Supporters of the former president call for an audit of the 2020 election.
Off the Floor, Senate Chamber: Senate Appropriations Committee
Off the Floor, Senate Chamber: Senate Communications & Technology Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 Main Capitol: House Appropriations Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Steve Mentzer
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jason Ortitay
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Sen. Wayne Fontana
8 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Rep. Rob Matzie
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Joe Emrick
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Christina Sappey
6 p.m.: 
Reception for the Dauphin County Republican Committee
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a mildly ridiculous $10,575.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Mike Straub in the office of state House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Duran Duran’s 
self-titled, debut LP turns an astonishing 40 years old this week — and it still sounds as good as the day it was released. Here’s the extended ‘night version’ of their first single, the classic ‘Planet Earth.’ Bonus points if you’re wearing a frilly shirt today.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Baltimore 
dropped a 7-2 decision to Cleveland on Tuesday night. The O’s are dead last in the AL East20 games out of first place

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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