Thousands In Washington State In ‘Limbo’ With Halt To DACA Applications

If Daniela Reyes were to dwell on the status of her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals application for too long, it might consume her.

The 24-year-old Tacoma mother had all her documents ready in 2017. But the program stopped accepting applications before she could apply. When it reopened, Reyes once again prepared her paperwork.

Despite reviewing her application for what seemed “like a hundred times,” she said it bounced back due to a missing signature. She submitted it once more — only to be left waiting again after a federal judge this summer questioned the legality of the Obama-era program.

Reyes is among the tens of thousands of DACA applicants caught in a backlog of cases after U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen barred the federal government from approving new applications.

The ruling has highlighted the transient nature of the protections afforded by DACA and has strengthened calls for comprehensive immigration reform that includes immigrants beyond those eligible for the program.

“It’s just been this devastating uncertainty. Even for folks who have DACA, it’s been this roller coaster of emotion of fighting to get this status in the first place,” said Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

He estimated that 2,000 of the 55,000 first-time DACA applicants in the country, as of March, reside in Washington state.

“Every time there’s news like this your heart drops,” Reyes said, calling it a never-ending battle to be given a shot at permanent residency.

Her family left Monterrey, Mexico, when she was 2. When Reyes got married in 2016, she tried to apply for citizenship through her husband, a U.S. citizen, but was told DACA was a safer bet.

With two young children and having been raised by a single mother for most of her youth, Reyes said she’s learned to advocate for herself and remain positive — even when it seems like all odds are against her.

By Daisy Zavala for SEATTLE TIMES
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