PHOENIX — Karina Ruiz’s life is deeply rooted in Phoenix. She has three children and two grandkids, a side gig selling houses, frantic days rushing kids off to school and activities, a busy work schedule filled with meetings.
The 35-year-old knows that little of this would be possible without her enrolment in a program dating back to the Obama administration that allows immigrants brought here as children to work and protects them from deportation.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s attempt to end the program, and the stakes are particularly high for the older generation of people enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA.
DACA recipients are often thought of as college students, but as the 7-year-old policy has aged, so have its beneficiaries. Roughly 18% of the 669,000 people enrolled in DACA are 31 and older.
As the DACA recipients grow older, they have become even more embedded in American life. They have children, blossoming careers, mortgages, car payments and other financial responsibilities that come along with becoming a 30-something. Some of them jokingly call themselves the “elder Dreamers.”
“We’re so much more than just students, and as we grow and become of age, usually with age comes responsibility,” Ruiz said. “I wonder who is going to help my children do their homework. Who is going to take them to summer camp or organize their birthdays? So all those things worry me.”
The immigrants hope that the Supreme Court case will bring an end to a long period of legal limbo.
In the early 2000s, immigrant youths who were brought to the U.S. as children and raised in American schools with American ways were pushing for a legislative fix to their tenuous situation. The first of several attempts to address this was the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, introduced in 2001 by two senators from opposing parties. The bill failed, and so have more than 10 other attempts at passing similar laws under three administrations.
In 2012, under intense pressure from young activists, President Barack Obama announced DACA’S creation. It was limited to people between 15 and 30 years old and to those who were attending or graduated from high school and lacked a criminal record.
President Barack Obama later tried to expand the protections to younger people and parents of DACA recipients but was blocked by the courts.
On Sept. 15, 2017, the Trump administration announced the end of the program, setting off a series of legal challenges that will culminate before the Supreme Court. A decision is expected in the spring.
DACA remains in existence, but only for people who were already enrolled when Trump ended it.
If the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration, it would throw the lives of DACA recipients back into type of limbo they regularly experienced before the program.
The life of Edison Suasnavas, a 33-year-old in Salt Lake City, changed drastically when he got DACA. He worked a low-paying job at a hotel before getting authorization to work. Now, he’s putting to use his advanced biology degrees while working in a lab analyzing cancer cells at the University of Utah’s molecular oncology department.
Suasnavas is married, has a young daughter and is expecting another baby soon. The Ecuador native owns a home and two cars.
But he said the anxiety over the program’s fate has caused him to consider moving to a different country.
“It’s been really hard because every morning you wake up thinking that something’s gonna get done or they’re gonna listen to stories like mine and they’re trying to somehow understand that most of us, first of all, it wasn’t our decision to come here and that if you think about it, what did we do wrong?”
Ruiz, who is from Mexico, was in college when Arizona voters passed a ballot initiative in 2006 requiring students without legal status to pay out-of-state tuition, or about triple the cost. She could no longer afford tuition and had to end her pursuit of biochemistry degree and a career in pharmacy, although she eventually went back to school and got her degree.
Slowly, Ruiz became involved in advocacy work, and it’s now her primary job. Along the way, she and her husband built a family: three boys, ages 7, 9 and 17. Her oldest child has two children of his own, which has added grandmother duties to her daily routine.
“I think they rely heavily on the support I provide them with the help of my husband not just economically but emotionally,” Ruiz said.
At 37, Andreas Magnusson is among the oldest immigrants enrolled in DACA.
He is a successful music producer who came to the U.S. from Sweden when he was a toddler. His mother had a student visa and eventually found an employer who was sponsoring the two, but an immigration lawyer botched their case, and Magnusson, already an adult with a growing business, a home and a car, was left without legal status.
Magnusson estimates he’s spent $40,000 on attorney and application fees over the years while attempting to fix his status. His mother, who has since become a U.S. citizen, sponsored Magnusson but it’ll be many years before he can get permanent legal residency, or a green card.
Lili Sanchez, 32, spent years working with a fake Social Security number in low-wage jobs to support her two daughters, who are now 15 and 12 years old. Sanchez used to live in constant fear, finding herself unnerved by just hunting for a place to live because she didn’t know what kind of documents the apartment complex might request.
With DACA, she was able to get her real estate license, work and eventually buy her own home in a Phoenix suburb. She’s studying to become a life coach.
Sanchez still faces hurdles, like not being able to see her mom for the past eight years because she moved back to Mexico. She worries about the future of DACA.
“I’ve lived here all of my life, this is my home. So for me everything is at stake. It would mean starting my life over there with my kids. It would be uprooting them, starting fresh,” Sanchez said.
Astrid Galvan, The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — Two White House officials described tensions and frustrations among some of the nation’s top diplomats as President Donald Trump, backed by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pressured Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
In closed-door transcripts released by House impeachment investigators on Friday, Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, detailed an extraordinary series of meetings and interactions before and after a July phone call in which Trump asked new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. election. At the same time, the U.S. was withholding military aid to the country.
Like previous witnesses, the two describe their concerns about the call and a gradual understanding that the aid and the investigations were linked. That connection is at the centre of the Democrats’ impeachment probe.
Takeaways from the Hill and Vindman transcripts:
DRAMA UNFOLDS IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Both Hill and Vindman describe a July meeting in the White House, before the call, in which Trump’s E.U. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, told Ukrainian officials that Trump would hold a meeting with Zelenskiy if they launch the investigations.
Hill said Sondland essentially “blurted out” that he had an agreement with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, “stiffened” and abruptly ended the meeting.
Sondland then convened a second meeting downstairs with the Ukrainians, to which Bolton sent Hill “to find out what they’re talking about.”
As she walked in, Sondland was trying again to set up the meeting and mentioned Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer. Hill cut him off.
Vindman said that Sondland discussed an investigation into the Bidens in the second meeting, which he also attended.
“My visceral reaction to what was being called for suggested that it was explicit,” Vindman said. “There was no ambiguity.”
Hill reported back to Bolton about Sondland’s attempts. Bolton told her to tell a National Security Council lawyer what she had heard, and to make it clear that that “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this.”
She said she had also discussed with Bolton the May dismissal of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, which came at Trump’s direction. He said his reaction was “pained.”
Bolton told her that “Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up.”
According to both Vindman and Hill, Sondland linked the trade for a White House meeting to Mulvaney.
“He just said that he had had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting,” Vindman said of the July discussion with the Ukrainians.
Vindman added that Sondland “was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma,” a gas company linked to Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
He said Sondland had a tendency to “just go directly over the NSC folks” and rather than working with National Security Council staff, would “go over the directorate and either reach directly to Ambassador Bolton or go to the chief of staff’s office. He had a pipeline.”
IMPRESSIONS OF THE CALL
Vindman, who listened into the July conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy, said the call was “dour” and there was no doubt in his mind that Trump was asking for a probe of the Bidens in exchange for a meeting.
Hill did not listen in on the call but said she was “shocked” when she read the rough transcript that was released in September. She said it was “blatant.”
“I was also very shocked, to be frank, that we ended up with a telephone conversation like this … I sat in an awful lot of calls, and I have not seen anything like this,” Hill told the lawmakers. “And I was there for two and a half years. So I was just shocked.”
TRANSCRIPT WAS EDITED
Vindman filled in lawmakers about what was left out of the rough transcript of the July call when it was released by the White House in September.
Among other changes, he said it was edited to remove a reference to Burisma, the energy company with ties to Joe Biden’s son. Vindman said that Zelenskiy specifically referenced looking into the situation with Burisma, the company linked to Hunter Biden. He said the rough transcript was edited to read: “the company.”
He said, though, that he didn’t think there was any “malicious intent” in leaving the words out.
Vindman also said the editing process for the rough transcript of the call went through a different, more secure system. And he had a difficult time logging into the system and had to get a hard copy and make edits on paper.
He said “it could be justified” to put it in the more secure system because “if it went out, it could harm our relationship” with Ukraine.
VINDMAN OUT OF THE LOOP
Vindman testified that he began to be excluded from Ukraine-related issues after he had taken his concerns to a lawyer for the National Security Council.
He said he was given conflicting reasons for why he was not included on a trip to Ukraine by then national security adviser John Bolton and then had difficulty in obtaining readouts from various meetings.
“I would ask for readouts, and I wasn’t able to successfully obtain readouts of those trips,” he said, adding that he eventually received the information needed to do his job from contacts at other agencies. “There was that period of time where, I guess, you know, where I felt I wasn’t having access to all the information and not attending the things that I would typically be participating in.”
UKRAINE’S ROLE IN THE 2016 ELECTION
Both Hill and Vindman said there was no evidence to suggest Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — a theory that both Trump and Giuliani have espoused.
Hill described the idea that Ukrainians were looking to mess with democratic systems in the United States as “fiction.”
She said that other national security officials had tried to explain to Trump that it wasn’t plausible. She said officials were disheartened to see the president suggest it to Ukraine’s new president when they spoke.
Vindman said he was unaware of any “authoritative basis” for the theory.
FRICTION AMONG ADVISERS
Hill said she had a good relationship with Sondland until a “blow-up” with him in June when he told her he was in charge of Ukraine. “You’re not,” she replied.
And then Sondland got “testy” with her, she told lawmakers.
When she asked Sondland who said he was in charge of Ukraine, he said the president. “Well, that shut me up, because you can’t really argue with that,” she said.
She described Sondland as someone who was frequently around the White House under unclear circumstances.
“Ambassador Bolton complained about him all the time but I don’t know whether he tried to rein him in” because Sondland wasn’t in Bolton’s chain of command, she said.
She said he felt Sondland has “just gone off the road. No guardrails, no GPS.” At one point she told him he was in over his head.
HILL IS NOT “ANONYMOUS”
Though she was not asked about it, she told lawmakers that she is not the author of a forthcoming book by an anonymous author identified only as “a senior official in the Trump administration.” The person is highly critical of the president.
“I did not leak, and I was not anonymous,” she said. “I am not the whistleblower.”
The whistleblower, another person whose name is not publicly known, triggered the impeachment probe with a complaint about the July call.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Matthew Daly, Laurie Kellman, Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller, Matthew Lee, Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro, Lynn Berry, Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.
Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
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