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DACA tele-town hall set for Wednesday

State Reps. Susan McLain of Hillsboro and Teresa Alonso Leon of Woodburn plan to hear from dreamers and their families and to provide a panel of experts to answer questions.

PARIS ACHEN/CAPITAL BUREAU - Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, and Ricardo Lijan-Valerio of Portland pose for a photography during a rally to protect dreamers at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem March 5, 2018.Two state lawmakers with large Latino communities in their districts will hold their first tele-town hall meeting for "dreamers" and their families.

Democratic Reps. Teresa Alonso Leon of Woodburn and Susan McLain of Hillsboro will take calls starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in both English and Spanish.

"Oregon is enriched by our diverse immigrant communities, many of whom have been shaken by the rhetoric and action at the federal level," the lawmakers wrote on a Facebook page for their event. "At the state level, the Legislature has extended protections to our dreamers and sent the message loud and clear: You are welcome here."

The teleconference is intended to highlight issues facing recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and their families and to connect them with community resources.

The lawmakers have scheduled a panel of experts to answer questions from callers. The panel includes Andrea Miller, executive director of Causa; John Marandas, an immigration attorney; Maria Caballero Rubio of the Centro Cultural de Washington County, and Bridget Cooke of Adelante Mujeres.

"There are so many Oregonians living in both of our districts under a cloud of fear and uncertainty," Leon said. "We want to share the hard work we have been doing to advocate for our immigrant populations so they know that we are fighting for them, inform callers about resources that are available to the community and ensure that people have the chance to talk about the issues affecting them to see how we can help," Alonso Leon said.

The lawmakers decided to forego a physical town hall meeting because they wanted to make the event accessible to families who might not have child care or driver's licenses.

Another consideration was growing fear among the immigrant community of raids on large gatherings by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, McLain said in a phone interview with the Pamplin/EO Capital Bureau.

ICE agents in Tennessee made the largest workplace raid in 10 years Thursday, April 5, at a meatpacking plant at Southeaster Provision in Grainger County, Tenn., according to a report by the Washington Post.

While DACA recipients are at least temporarily protected from deportations, their parents and other family members may be at risk.

Last summer, McLain's office surveyed more than 40 Latino small businesses in her House district to find ways to support small businesses, she said.

"We were going to have a kind of get together, kind of like a Latino town hall where we would talk about the findings of the survey," McLain said. "It was scheduled the day after ICE had tried to pick up one of our citizens at the courthouse in Hillsboro. We had about 16-20 RSVPs for the event, but we didn't have a single soul come to that meeting that night.

"It became apparent that we had to be sensitive" to the risk and fear in the community, she said.

DACA, the avenue for dreamers to avoid deportation and obtain work permits, is in peril under the Donald Trump administration and remains under debate in federal courts.

In a series of tweets April 1 and 2, Trump said there will be no deal on DACA despite months of political wrangling.

Trump attempted to end DACA last year, arguing that former President Barack Obama lacked the authority to create the program through executive order. The president and Congress failed to meet a March 5 deadline to come up with a permanent legislative solution for dreamers. The program was scheduled to end that day, but judges have issued injunctions to allow DACA renewals while challenges to its termination are pending in court.

The injunctions do not allow for new applicants to the program.

"The comments I hear every day from dreamers are feelings of insecurity," McLain said. "What is out there that is dangerous to them or their family? Second, what is going to happen at the federal level? What do the court decisions mean? And then, the third one is uncertainty about their futures. A lot of young people wonder if they'll get to keep their jobs. Will I get to finish my schooling? Am I going to be losing members of my family?"

Oregon lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation to protect the ability of unauthorized immigrants who grew up in the state to continue to qualify for resident undergraduate tuition and for scholarships at state colleges and universities. Another new law allows dreamers to renew their driver's licenses with their expired license.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, has said he plans to introduce legislation next year that would expand resident tuition to graduate study for that population and ensure they can obtain professional licensure.

Anyone in the state can participate in the tele-town hall by calling 855-756-7520 ext. 39422# for English and ext. 39470# for Spanish.

For details, visit the event Facebook page.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
email: pachen@portlandtribune.com
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