Castor Seeks to Calm Immigration Fears
U.S.Rep. Kathy Castor spoke to a group of immigrants who worry about their futures.
By SHELLY STECK REALE, TB Reporter Correspondent
TAMPA – Rhetoric and executive actions from the White House concerning immigrants and immigration have many who were not born in this country feeling fearful for their futures.
In an effort to calm fears and provide facts, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, called a town hall meeting this week.
“We love you. We’re proud of you. And we’re going to fight to make sure that you don’t have to worry,” Castor said.
The meeting was directed at those who seek protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides a pathway to citizenship for children who were brought to the U.S. at an early age – a total of about 56,355 children in Florida. President Donald Trump campaigned on reversing the DACA, which was enacted as an executive order by then-President Barack Obama. Trump could eliminate the program with another executive order.
“I am here to say that, so far, in the first few days of this new administration, there are no plans to do so,” Castor said. “But we have got to be watchful, and come together as a community to say we believe in these students, they haven’t done anything wrong. We’ve invested in them; they’ve been successful; and we need them for the future of this community.”
DACA continues to accept applications.
The application process is rigorous, immigration attorney Jennifer G. Roeper said. Roeper, a Stetson University School of Law adjunct professor, is an advisor to Castor’s office.
To qualify for DACA deferred status, the applicant must have been younger than 16 when he came into the U.S., must have been born before June 15, 1982, must have lived in the U.S. since at least 2007, have no record of criminal activity that would make them inadmissible to the country.
“It is important to understand that DACA is not a legal status,” Roeper said. “Deferred action means that the government will literally defer action on a case where someone may otherwise be deported.”
Many in the crowd were concerned about personal data collected during the DACA application process, and what would happen if DACA is repealed.
“Right now the policy is that that information will not be shared with [the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency],” Roeper said.
Castor added, “We intent to fight tooth and nail to keep that data private. Right now the data is protected; let’s hope it stands.”
“I don’t like that term ‘sanctuary city’ because it’s manufactured,” Castor said. “There is no such thing as a ‘sanctuary city.’
“It doesn’t mean local law enforcement does not cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies. Here in Hillsborough County, Tampa police and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department cooperate every single day with the FBI, ICE, the DEA, ATF; they have very close working relationships.”
Castor added, “I think this concept of ‘us versus them’ and ‘sanctuary cities’ has been created to drive a wedge and to scare people, and to undermine what the responsibilities of our local law enforcement compared to our federal law enforcement.
“What we don’t want to do is ask our local Tampa Police Department and local Hillsborough County sheriff’s department to take on the responsibilities of the federal government for immigration. Our local police officers and sheriff’s deputies have their hands full with keeping our community safe from crime.”
Castor said she plans to co-sponsor the BRIDGE Act as a safeguard should DACA be dismantled. The BRIDGE Act – Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy – is a bipartisan bill that would allow those who are eligible for, or who have received work authorization and temporary relief from deportation through DACA to continue living in the U.S. with permission from the federal government.
“If we can pass a new law, the BRIDGE Act, then it would provide a pathway to citizenship for our DREAMers should DACA go away,” Castor said.
Many asked what they could do to safeguard their immigration status. The panel unanimously encouraged all members of the community to “stay informed, understand your rights; call, email, and visit your elected official and let your voice be heard.”
For information about Kathy Castor, go to castor.house.gov.
Photos by Shelly Steck Reale, TB Reporter correspondent.
Kathy Castor | Immigration | DACA | BRIDGE Act | Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals | TB Reporter
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