BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — “Our Phone’s been ringing off the hook since the day after the election.”
With these words, Claudia Connor opened an “opportunity for dialogue” in Bridgeport with immigrants, support organizations and individuals interested in helping in what may shape up as a less friendly environment for immigrants under the administration of President-Elect Donald Trump.
Connor is president and CEO of the International Institute of Connecticut (iiconn.org), a Bridgeport-based nonprofit that assists in settling and assisting immigrants and refugees in this area. The meeting was held recently at the Burroughs Community Center in Bridgeport and attended by more than 30 people — the majority of the immigrants.
Connor said that there are “more questions than answers about what will happen” under Trump, and that iiconn “will not speculate or predict” what changes might be made.
Carmen Goiricelaya, an iiconn social worker who helps immigrant families settle here, said, “Much of our immigration system can’t be changed by the new president himself, that most changes require the support of Congress.”
But, she said, executive actions are unilateral presidential decisions that can change on a moment’s notice. They are often imposed when Congress refuses to act. The program of immediate concern, she said, is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, one created by President Barack Obama to keep families together.
DACA immigrants are permitted to remain in the United States, subject to staying free of criminal prosecution. Their status is individually reviewed every two years. They are deemed deportable, but with a lower priority than the 2.4 million criminals and security risks removed in 2014 (the last year for which data is available). And they are not on a path to citizenship.
DACA’s future is “one of the big question marks,” and will remain so until the new administration moves on it, she said.
For undocumented immigrants, Goiricelaya said, “it is important that you get proper legal advice related to your status.” She, too, made “no prediction about what will happen after Jan. 20.”
And she encouraged everyone who has a question to go to iiconn rather than retaining an often expensive but potentially ineffective attorney.
Most important, she urged those who did not enter the U.S. with documentation to gather all their paperwork — “If you have American children, gather their passports and related papers and put everything where it is readily accessible."
Touching on refugees, Connor said that iiconn has “a humanitarian duty that crosses party lines,” but she “don’t know what follows.” She called it likely that Trump will cut yearly admissions from its present 100,000, and will “emphasize exclusions of particular religions and countries.”
“We recognize that our work is now more important that ever.”
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