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Immigration Lawyer Fears For Fate Of 'Dreamers' Under Trump


One of the signature programs of the Obama administration was DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It recognized people living in the United States who were brought here as kids, making them eligible for work permits and bumping them down the priority list for deportation. Candidate Donald Trump wasn't a fan. Here he is speaking with Chuck Todd for NBC's "Meet The Press."


CHUCK TODD: You'll rescind the DREAM Act - executive order for DACA?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You're going to have to. We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in...

TODD: So you're going to split up families? You're going to deport children?

TRUMP: Chuck, no, no. We're going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together, but they have to go.

TODD: But you're going to keep them together - out.

TRUMP: But they have to go.

TODD: What if they have no place to go?

TRUMP: We will work with them. They have to go.

CORNISH: But it's not yet entirely clear what President Trump will do. Immigration advocates called DACA participants DREAMers. There are about 750,000 of them. Daniel Rodriguez, our next guest, was one of them. We met him the year DACA was enacted. He's since become an attorney and represents immigrants. Welcome back to the program.

DANIEL RODRIGUEZ: Thank you so much, Audie.

CORNISH: Now, as we mentioned, you were brought here as a child, so how did it feel in 2012 when you got to file for DACA and receive a government ID?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, in 2012 I was in a leave of absence from law school. I started law school in Arizona in 2008. I had to take a leave of absence because I couldn't afford the out-of-state tuition that undocumented students have to pay to attend college or higher education. So in 2012 DACA was announced. On one end, I now had the ability to work and save money in order to go back to school, which I did.

And second, it was the first time that my government, my country, my home officially recognized me. Growing up undocumented, it's in the name, you don't have a lot of documentation. And when I received my work permit - my DACA card as a lot of students call it - and seeing my name on an official government ID, it was sort of a validation that, you know, this is my country and I belong here.

CORNISH: And since then, as we mentioned, you've become an immigration attorney. You do have a green card at this point. Did you get phone calls from people in the DACA program after the election?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I received many calls from individuals that are DACA recipients wanting to know, one, should I renew my DACA if I already have it? Two, if I haven't applied for it, should I do so now considering that they can use my information against me? And three, generally what's going to happen with us and with our families. At that point after the elections, we weren't exactly clear as to how any DACA revocation could occur. So the only thing that we could advise individuals is to wait and see what the president would announce.

CORNISH: So how do you help clients prepare for this - right? - like, or what are you telling them to get in order so to speak to be prepared?

RODRIGUEZ: My general advice to a DACA-eligible individual is that if you still qualify for DACA, you should apply. We still have the program. It's anticipated that it may be revoked, but if we still have it, I think that individual should apply if they are eligible. They should definitely renew because for someone that has already applied and now seeking to renew, the government already has your information. But again, we have to do so - in giving that advice, we have to do so in a way that lets the individuals be cognizant that there is a higher risk now.

CORNISH: But how do you prepare? I mean, is it basically...

RODRIGUEZ: The majority of individuals that - going to a deportation proceedings do so after being transferred from a criminal or traffic-related case. A lot of individuals get pulled over, for example, if they don't have an ID, like, let's say in the state of Arizona. If they can identify themselves, they automatically have to be booked. They have to be, you know, fingerprinted, registered.

At that moment, the local law enforcement realizes that the individual doesn't have documentation, so a call is placed to the local ICE officers. The ICE officers then determine whether to hold that individual and put them in deportation proceedings, or let them go if they are considered low priority. So one of the advice that we give individuals is definitely try not to get in trouble. Try not to drive if you don't need to. Obviously don't commit any crimes, and just keep your head low and make sure that we wait to see what's next.

CORNISH: Daniel Rodriguez is a lawyer in Arizona. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Audie. It was my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MELODIUM SONG, "AUGUSTA FALLS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.