Immigrants in area worry about future
Fearful of family separation, people call attorney for advice
Immigrant communities across the Western Slope say they are facing uncertainty as President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail to deport immigrants living in the country illegally.
The phone was ringing nonstop last week at the law office of Imelda Mulholland, an immigration attorney in Grand Junction, with calls from people seeking advice on how to proceed.
“Most of the people that come to us are terrified of being separated from their family, especially if their sole wage earner is taken away,” she said. “People are coming in and there’s absolutely nothing we can do. It’s a sad, dark time for everyone. We’re just trying to stay as informed as possible.”
Trump has pledged to terminate President Obama’s executive actions, one of which includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. The 2012 policy dictated that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would not deport undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children.
It applies to an estimated 800,000 so-called Dreamers, allowing them to apply for two-year renewable work authorizations and shielding them from deportation.
While campaigning, Trump also said he intended to immediately deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants who have criminal records once he is inaugurated in January.
Mulholland said people can get more information about the current situation at the next monthly meeting, Information for Immigrants, from 6-8 p.m. Monday at the Central Branch of the Mesa County Library, 443 N. Sixth St.
She said the thought that DACA might be eliminated is creating an uproar in the immigrant community.
“Kids are mad. They had the opportunity in school. They are the most diligent workers and don’t take anything for granted. They want to finish school and get into the workforce,” Mulholland said. “If DACA goes away, they are stuck. It’s dashing hope for those kids. It’s all very sad and stressful for the community.”
Mulholland said she encourages people who want to get involved to contact their representatives in Congress.
She believes that even those people who support some level of immigration reform realize the negative consequences of deporting all immigrants who are in the country illegally.
“If they plucked up all the people who are undocumented, we wouldn’t be able to function — all the agriculture work, landscaping, concrete work they do. They can’t find people that want those jobs and pass a drug test, so they absolutely rely on foreign labor,” she said. “I think that people are aware of that and they realize that they need those folks in the community.”
While children and some young people are feeling nervous and afraid for their futures, some parents have a longer view of the current situation, said Nicole Bernal-Ruiz, an accredited immigration legal representative with the Hispanic Affairs Project of Western Colorado.
“Some young people are feeling more despair,” she said. “They have more anxiety. They’re worried about homes they bought, their jobs.”
Ruiz said she’s generally advising immigrants to abide by all laws and avoid contact with law enforcement.
She’s also urging people not to fall into immigration scams.
“Don’t make a down payment on any kind of potential relief,” she said. “No one can give you any kind of head start.”
Ruiz said there’s probably thousands of immigrant families on the Western Slope. A thousand families sign up to receive newsletters from the Hispanic Affairs Project, she said.
Renewing DACA applications should be considered on a case-by-case basis, she said.
Ruiz said she’s suggesting if someone already has received DACA they should seek legal counsel on whether they should renew it in the next two months.
“People should contact us if they have any questions about if they should renew,” Ruiz said.
Contact the Hispanic Affairs Project at 970-249-4115.