Companies, educational institutions move to defend DACA recipients

In defense of employees and students caught in the DACA program rescinding, leading corporations and colleges and universities are mobilizing to protect recipients of the program which was instituted by the Obama administration and allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors to pursue work permit, The Hill reports.

President Trump announced the winding down of the program a fortnight ago with a six-month delay for Congress to work on an alternative for the nearly 800,000 people who are enrolled.

A large number of the DACA recipients commonly referred to as “Dreamers” attend schools, while others are working legally at some of America’s biggest companies.

A group “” which agitated for Trump to keep the program, gave an estimate which asserts that, about 72 percent of the 25 largest-grossing corporations in the United States employ DACA recipients and some of these companies are vowing to stand by their employees.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, whose company boasts of 39 DACA recipients as employees, has offered to pay the legal bills for any of the employees enrolled in the program should the government try to deport them.

“If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees. If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel,” Smith said in a statement last week.

“In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side,” he added.

A similar advocacy has risen from some universities and colleges who have DACA recipients as students in their respective schools.

The first of these institutions to publicly state its stand is the University of California, which has 10 campuses throughout the state, and filed a lawsuit last week against the Justice Department’s move to end DACA, slamming the decision as “nothing more than unreasoned executive whim.”

The lawsuit is being spearheaded by a popular face with the program, Janet Napolitano, president of the system, who was responsible for setting up the DACA program in 2012 as the then Secretary of Homeland Security to Obama.

She said in a statement, “Neither I nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, especially not the very agency that I led. It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community”.

“To arbitrarily and capriciously end the DACA program, which benefits our country as a whole, is not only unlawful, it is contrary to our national values and bad policy,” she reiterated.

Smith stressed further, “Although we should all ask Congress to act within six months, we should be prepared for the possibility that it will not do so. Such a failure would not relieve anyone else in the country of the responsibility to act thoughtfully and wisely. This is why we will work as needed with other companies and the broader business community to vigorously defend the legal rights of all Dreamers.”

If DACA expires in the stipulated time, employers and schools will be faced with the challenge of the most preferable step to take over those affected. Immigration lawyers, however, said they will have several options with the availability of other immigrant visas that could be secured.

Leon Fresco, a partner at Holland & Knight who once led immigration litigation at the Justice Department said, “Believe it or not, a significant number of these kids can qualify for other kinds of relief from removal if it is necessary to go down that route”.

“There are ways for lawyers who have good relationships with the government to move DACA kids onto either non-immigrant visas or other legal statuses, assuming they have the right legal qualifying characteristics,” he said.

One of the many options would be shifting a DACA recipient who is enrolled in college onto a student visa, and upon graduation move onto an H-1B visa, which is given to specialized workers, fresco disclosed.

Other available options according to fresco are the application for a renewal of two years enrolled before Oct. 5 for those whose permit expires between now and March 5.

In outlining the state of the situation, Stewart Verdery, founder of public affairs firm Monument Policy Group said, “A large number of corporate general counsels were personally very involved in determining their company’s response on the travel ban litigation and communicating those decisions to interested employees, so it is easy to imagine how that network is being jump-started to engage on the fight over DACA.”

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