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February 10, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters is among 320 national, state, and local organizations to sign on to a letter calling on President Joseph Biden to restore access to the health insurance benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to young immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
DACA recipients, often also called Dreamers, are U.S. residents who came to the United States as children with their parents and without legal documentation. Some immigrants who came as children have not received DACA status and are at risk of being deported to their native country. In many cases, the United States is the only home they remember.
The letter calls on President Biden to restore the access to ACA benefits to DACA recipients within the first 100 days of his presidency. Taking this action is critical, the signatories write, “for any additional delay in healthcare access during the COVID pandemic puts the health of DACA recipients, their families, and the wider community and risk.” Without access to those benefits, the signatories argue, the DACA recipients cannot obtain health insurance under Medicaid or CHIP or purchase insurance through the ACA or its health insurance marketplace.
Restoration of this healthcare benefit to DACA recipients is a matter of justice, said Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney and Director of Office of Immigration Services for the Adrian Dominican Congregation. “So many of our DACA people are out there on the front lines,” Sister Attracta said. “They are the ones doing so much of the work just to keep the country going.”
Sister Attracta said that all people in the United States – citizens, residents, DACA recipients, and immigrants who have no legal status – should be vaccinated to keep the country safe from the COVID-19 virus. Her stance was supported in a recent statement by the Department of Homeland Security. The department said it supports “equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine.”
Sister Attracta held up the contributions made by people who live in the United States with no legal status. “We’re relying on them every day to do some of the hard work, [providing us with] food and all the other essentials. We don’t even begin to appreciate what they do.”
Sister Attracta also spoke of the need to reform the immigration system to make it more just, one that “welcomes immigrants and that keeps families together and allows people like those who are newly arrived and other people who have lived here for generations to more fully contribute to the country – which they would do if they felt safe.”
In addition, she spoke of the need to reunite families that were separated at the border. “Some of the parents are back in their home country and their children are here,” she said. “Clearly it is damaging to the parents, but it is way more damaging to the children.”
Sister Attracta spoke on February 2, 2021, hours before President Biden announced further steps to reform immigration in the United States. Among those steps were the creation of a task force to reunify the families separated at the border; development of a strategy to address “irregular immigration across the Southern border”; and re-establishment of a Task Force on New Americans to ensure a “fair and efficient” immigration system.
Immigration reform has long been an issue of concern for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The Congregation invites all people of good will to speak out for immigration reform and on a number of social justice issues through its Action Alert page.
Feature photo: Sisters Judith Benkert, OP, left, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, speak out for justice at the border of Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico during the 2018 School of the Americas Watch Convergence at the Border. Adrian Dominican Sisters File Photo
December 11, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Dreamers – young undocumented immigrants who, as children, came to the United States with their parents – are now eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, allowing them to remain in the United States without fear of being deported.
Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, JD, immigration attorney and Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Immigration Assistance, is available free of charge to help Dreamers apply for DACA status or renew their applications.
The DACA program was initiated during the administration of President Barack Obama, but rescinded under President Donald Trump in 2017. In June 2020, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration had violated procedural law in rescinding the program, and a federal court in New York ruled on December 4, 2020, that DACA had to be reinstated. About 646,000 Dreamers have benefited from DACA since 2012, and about 685,000 more young immigrants could be eligible for the program.
To be eligible, immigrants must have entered the United States before turning 16; be at least 15 and no more than 30 years old; and have been in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007, and present in the country on June 15, 2012. They must also be free of a disqualifying criminal record, which includes a felony conviction; three or more misdemeanor convictions; significant misdemeanor convictions, such as driving while under the influence, domestic abuse, possession of a controlled substance or firearm; or involvement in any circumstance that could be viewed as a danger to public safety or national security.
In preparation for the application process, please organize the following documents that prove your eligibility:
Proof of identity, date of birth, and qualifying age: birth certificate, passport, and National Identity Document/Cedula.
Proof of five years of continuous residence in the United States as of June 15, 2012: school records, financial records, employment records, tax records, medical records, church records, driving records.
Proof of being in school, having a high school diploma or GED, or honorable discharge from the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces: school transcript, report cards, high school diploma or GED certificate, or discharge papers.
Proof that you do not have a disqualifying conviction and do not pose a public safety or national security risk: juvenile court records or criminal court records, if any. If you have not been arrested or charged with an offense, you do not have to prove this; you will be required to make an appointment to have your fingerprints taken to determine if you have an arrest record.
If you are eligible and are prepared to gather the necessary documents, please call Laura Negron-Terrones, Administrative Assistant, at 517-266-3526 to discuss the next steps.