Presidential Transition Key for Nevada’s DACA Recipients

Lily Bohlke | Public News Service
Nevada is home to more than 12,000 DACA recipients, and more than 250,000 Nevadans live with at least one undocumented person. Photo Credit: Maria Oswalt / Unsplash

LAS VEGAS — More than 12,000 Nevadans are protected by DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and President-elect Joe Biden has promised on Day One he’ll reverse the Trump administration’s attempts to repeal it.

A federal judge ruled last week that, because the nomination of interim Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf wasn’t confirmed by the Senate, Wolf didn’t have the authority to reduce DACA work permits from two years to one, or close the program to first-time applicants.

Lalo Montoya, political director for the group Make the Road Nevada, is a DACA recipient and said he hopes to see a legislative proposal for immigration reform on top of reversing the recent DACA changes.

“DACA has never been a long-term solution,” he said. “As someone who has it, it’s really tough to plan your life in two-year increments. It’s tough — like I, myself, this election meant my livelihood.”

In addition to protecting DACA, Montoya said, Biden has promised a deportation moratorium, protections for people seeking asylum and an end to family separations. Make the Road Nevada also is advocating for a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States, and for Congress to include them in a coronavirus relief package.

The CARES Act that passed in March excluded undocumented immigrants from benefits, which also prevented U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents from getting aid. Montoya’s group is urging Congress to change that in the next COVID-19 relief bill. He pointed out that many undocumented workers, and those living in mixed-status households, are on the front lines of the pandemic.

“Not just around reversing some policies,” he said, “but literally keeping people safe from the pandemic and making sure that they’re not excluded due to their legal status.”

Montoya said DACA changed his life by allowing him to start a business without fear of deportation, but more comprehensive reform is needed. He said he thinks the new administration will provide an opportunity to bring folks together to fight for greater respect and dignity for immigrants.