Darien Dreamer talks of troubling time
DARIEN — Among the many deadlines college students face, for Jean Pierre Documet March 5 was an outstanding one — it was the day that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was scheduled to end, putting his status and that of roughly 800,000 others like him in limbo.
In September, President Donald Trump set the March 5 expiration date for DACA, a program that offers protections for immigrants in the United State illegally who came to the country as children. The DACA program was implemented in 2012 under the Obama administration.
Nearly a month after the program deadline, for Documet it’s been a disheartening look into the politics that affect his future as he tries to concentrate on other things, particularly his studies in environmental engineering.
“I think a lot of hope has been killed, especially with all the negotiations where (legislators) have tried to pass a Dream Act. All of them have failed or been postponed but I guess you have to keep hoping,” the 19-year-old said.
“Where we stand now, there will be no more first-time DACA recipients but people who have DACA right now can continue to renew,” said Douglas Penn, a Stamford lawyer who has practiced immigration law since 1997 and has represented clients before the Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Trump has displayed ambivalence on the DACA question. He tweeted that “DACA is probably dead” Jan. 14 but has also said he would treat DACA “with heart” at a Feb. 16 press conference.
As an undergraduate at Tufts University, Documet has found more of a diverse community to relate to than when he was in Darien, a predominantly Caucasian town where the median household income in 2016 was $208,000 according to the United States Census Bureau.
“Even though some people complain that Tufts is not diverse, it will still be way more diverse than Darien will ever be,” Documet said.
He joined the group United for Immigrant Justice back when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescinding of DACA Sept. 5 last year, a rocky start to his first day of college.
“It feels comforting to have a community of Hispanic and low-income students and even other Dreamers, I have more things in common with people (at Tufts),” said Documet, who is originally from Peru and arrived to Darien when he was six-years-old.
When the college application process began his senior year of high school, Documet’s status as a Dreamer was another obstacle he had to take into account going through the labyrinth that is college applications. Each school had its own requirements, each application its own details.
“Some of my friends thought the process was unfair for me especially because it’s already hard to begin with regarding financial aid and other stuff. Some people also thought that the Dreamer status helps you or makes it easier to get into school, which is ridiculous,” Documet said.
Penn recommended that DACA recipients renew their status as soon as possible, something Documet did last summer.
“As you get close to expiration of your DACA, file to renew it,” Penn said. “File for renewal six months before it expires and don’t let it lapse.”
With the constant worry of what may or may not happen, he continues to dedicate his efforts to his schoolwork. But he does wish more people understood about the situation he and other Dreamers have to live through day after day.
“I think people should be more aware of what immigrants are like and how they live their lives instead of making assumptions of the worse,” Documet said. “Sometimes I felt like I was living in a bubble (in Darien) and I thought it was interesting to show people a different kind of life from what everyone else is used to,” Documet said.
Penn said that constant pressure on Congress would be the way for those concerned to push for a solution to legal uncertainties.
“It’s up to Congress to fix this, this really is a case where people need to keep calling Congress regularly,” Penn said.