The Trump Administration has called for a return to the “rule of law” and they found out that cuts both ways when Dreamer Jessica Colotl recently won a reprieve from deportation in federal court.
The Georgia women has been seen as a poster child for the struggles of so-called Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established under during the Obama Administration. Colotl, now 28, was brought to the U.S. by her Mexican parents when she was 11 years old. She garnered national attention in 2010 when a traffic stop landed her in custody for misdemeanor driving without a license. But a felony charge of lying about her place of residence was added. She was incarcerated for 37 days and nearly shipped back to Mexico.
Advocates supporting immigration tolerance viewed her situation as gross police-state and governmental overreach. Her sorority sisters and college president rallied public support to protect her and other students following a positive path. Opponents viewed Colotl as an illegal immigrant who was wrongfully enjoying discounted college tuition.
Colotl kept deportation at bay through the DACA program by renewing her status in 2013 and 2015. She was confident that her legal issues were resolved, having completed a community service program with the understanding the felony would be dropped from her record.
Now a college graduate working as a legal assistant, Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to renew her DACA status in May while targeting convicted felons who entered the U.S. illegally. The agency took the position that Colotl’s admission disqualified her from the DACA program.
In a hearing held in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, government attorneys effectively dropped the issue. They agreed that Colotl was correct that her completion of the community service and diversion program did not make her a felon. Without a legal reason to bar her, judge Mark H. Cohen ruled that her DACA application must be reinstated.
Approximately 750,000 people have been allowed to pursue a productive life in the U.S. under the DACA program. Pres. Trump has indicated that criminal immigrants would be the focus of deportation efforts and the DACA program has been left intact. During the first quarter of 2017, more than 17,275 new applications have been approved. As many as 107,524 renewals have also been OK’d, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Although widespread fear exists among immigrants, cases such as Colotl’s show that the rule of law is alive, well and legal protections remain in place.