Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

The DACA hiring dance

Compassion | Employers wonder how to handle workers with uncertain futures
by Rob Holmes
Posted 8/08/18, 04:49 pm

As courts and the White House battle back and forth about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. companies are increasingly skittish about hiring the program’s beneficiaries.

Nearly 700,000 immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children have legal status and a valid renewable two-year work permit called an employment authorization document. The Trump administration rescinded DACA, a program instituted under President Barack Obama, in September of last year but continues to process renewal requests under orders from a federal court.

A federal judge last week ruled the Trump administration must reinstate the entire program, not just the renewals. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates stayed his decision until August 23 to give the administration time to appeal.

Meanwhile, employers who don’t want to hire DACA recipients—who could be deported if the Trump administration’s actions hold up in court—increasingly face legal action for discrimination. Since 2014, DACA workers have filed a handful of class-action suits against companies refusing to hire them because they do not have citizenship or green cards. Recipients, many of whom have graduated from college since the program was set up in 2012, struggle to find work as the legal battle over their final status plays out.

So far, federal judges in New York and Florida have ruled DACA recipients represent a protected class, even if temporarily protected. Human rights groups are watching the class-action lawsuits, which could protect immigrants and those who hire them. If DACA recipients win protection, it will bode well for others with restricted or temporary work status, including asylum seekers, refugees, and victims of human trafficking brought to the United States.

But a number of states say that the program was unconstitutional in the first place and creates a burden on states to provide for illegal immigrants. Lawyers for a seven-state coalition led by Texas appeared in federal court in Houston on Wednesday to ask a judge to halt DACA.

“DACA is unconstitutional because it rewrote federal law without congressional approval,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “Our lawsuit asks the court to prevent future illegal actions, restore the rule of law to our immigration system, and provide Congress with an opportunity to finally address the issue.”

If U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston rules against the program, it could create a conflict with other recent court decisions and draw the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Creative Commons/Photo by Waltarrr Creative Commons/Photo by Waltarrr An RV parked on the street in Los Angeles

Home sweet RV

San Diego is fighting a class-action lawsuit arguing that local laws forbidding overnight parking of recreational vehicles on city streets discriminate against homeless disabled people.

In November 2017, 11 homeless plaintiffs filed the suit, claiming the city violated their civil rights by ticketing and impounding their only dwelling: RVs. San Diego restricts access to free overnight “safe lots” to homeless people living in non-RV vehicles, and a 2014 city ordinance banned RVs from parking on city streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The plaintiffs said they cannot afford to pay the nightly or monthly fee at RV parks.

In June, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia ruled the class-action suit could proceed, stating the city’s statute “can violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act if it disparately impacts or places a disproportionate burden on the disabled.” The plaintiffs argued their disabilities mean they cannot afford to rent and cannot access shelters with stairs.

“People on fixed incomes have few affordable housing options, and if an RV or other vehicle is their only available shelter, local governments should not make that option illegal,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, one of the organizations that filed the suit

Others argued RVs are a way to keep disabled homeless people off the streets and sheltered.

But some local residents said the restriction on RV overnight parking has helped the community, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

At a July 26 hearing on the suit, Battaglia said he needed more time to consider before issuing a temporary injunction lifting the overnight parking ban until the suit is settled. He worried it could motivate RV owners to take their vehicles out of paid private lots and park them for free on city streets. An attorney for the city urged the judge to delay his decision, stating the city has been working with a nonprofit organization and soon plans to provide a safe lot for free overnight RV parking for homeless individuals. —R.H.

Listen to the sound of Hope

WORLD Radio’s The World and Everything in It finished airing last week its five-part series on the regional winners of the 2018 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion. Listen to reports on the Colorado Burma Roundtable Network in Denver, Colo.; Jericho Partnership in Danbury, Conn.; Jump Start in Spartanburg, S.C.; Windswept Academy in Eagle Butte, S.D.; and the Aquila Rehab Center in Hanoi, Vietnam. Also read WORLD Magazine’s profiles published in its Aug. 4 issue. Then cast your vote for the ministry that moves you the most. The winning ministry will receive a $10,000 grand prize, while each of the regional winners takes home $2,000 each. Voting ends Sept. 8. —Mickey McLean

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Rob Holmes

Rob is a World Journalism Institute graduate and former WORLD correspondent.

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