WASHINGTON: More than 2,800 Pakistanis and over 5,500 Indians will be affected by the repeal of an immigration programme that protected undocumented aliens, who were brought to the US as children, from deportation.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that US President Donald Trump said he would repeal, was introduced by former US President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect children of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The programme benefitted nearly 800,000 people who were able to stay and obtain permits to work in the United States. While the vast majority of such undocumented children registered under DACA are from Mexico and Latin American countries, a report in the Forbes magazine said thousands of Asian-Americans were also among the ‘Dreamers’ – a term coined to define children brought in as illegal immigrants.
“Currently, around 30,000 Asian-Americans, comprising over 5,500 Indians and over 2,800 Pakistanis have received DACA,” the report said, adding that India was in the top 10 countries for undocumented immigrants who meet DACA eligibility criteria.
Many of such Asian-Americans spoke to Forbes on the condition of anonymity or that their names be changed, fearing that could jeopardise their chances of getting away, when DACA ends in March, 2018.
The deadline is set by US President Trump for the Congress to come up with legislation to provide relief to DACA recipients; however, President Trump said on Wednesday that in case Congress failed to act, he will “revisit” the issue. He did not give details.
Most of the South Asia DACA recipients are those whose parents came to the United States on temporary travel documents such as tourist visas to escape “religious persecution” in the home or better economic opportunities.
Some of these families tried to seek asylum that would have given them the legal residency status but were denied. Some applied for employment visas but were never granted; and there were others who simply lived in the “shadows” working illegally without any security or benefits.
Homes of many such illegal immigrants were recently raided by US Immigration and Customs officers and their parents are now held in detention centers facing legal hurdles or are forced to wear tracking devices around their ankles.
An Indian girl, who was identified by a fake name “Ruhi” is studying biology at a university in Texas. Her parents are from Lucknow, India, and were diagnosed with a rare brain disease as child. Her parents brought her to America on a medical visa.
Upon arriving in the US, it turned out that her treatment would take years and not days and so her father started looking for a job and was offered sponsorship for an employment visa. That happened during the 9/11 attacks that caused “massive delays” in processing of visa applications. After years of delay, Ruhi’s father’s application was denied.
As Ruhi was still undergoing treatment, her father took the risk of staying as “undocumented” as once they returned to India, they wouldn’t be allowed back into the US. Now, as a result of repealing of the DACA programme, Ruhi also faces prospects of deportation including her parents who have been living illegally all along.