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Poll shows Utahns favor citizenship path for ‘Dreamers’

Utah voters also weigh in on best way to decrease illegal immigration

Mayra Cedano attends a gathering of DACA supporters at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Sept. 5, 2017. President Donald Trump is dismantling DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the government program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children. Cedano came to America through the DACA program when she was 11-years-old.
Mayra Cedano attends a gathering of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals supporters at the Capitol in Salt Lake City in September 2017. A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows how Utahns feel about a citizenship path for “Dreamers.”
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Except for the first four or five months of her life, Sinthia Rosado Veronica has spent all of her 25 years in the United States, mostly in Utah.

She graduated from Granger High School and will receive a degree in nursing this spring from Salt Lake Community College. She’s planning to go to the University of Utah for an advanced degree to become a family nurse practitioner.

While Rosado Veronica knows where she’s headed, her future is uncertain. Because her parents brought her from Mexico as an infant, she is among millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, allows her to stay, but she can’t become an American citizen. The Obama-era program lets some people without lawful presence in the U.S. who were brought to the country as children receive a renewable two-year deferral from deportation and obtain a work permit. It does not provide a path to citizenship.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows that 55% of Utahns support legislation the U.S. House passed last month to provide a legal path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” or who have temporary protected status.

The survey found 38% oppose the bill, while 7% are not sure.

However, all four of Utah’s Republican congressmen voted against the American Dream and Promise Act. It faces an unsure path in the Senate.

“It’s difficult just because things like that have come by before and it’s like, is it actually going to pass this time or should I just not get my hopes up?” Rosado Veronica said. “I do hope it passes, but at the same time I’m not trying to get my hopes up so I can’t feel disappointed if it doesn’t pass.”

Rosado Veronica, who works as an intern at SLCC’s Dream Center where she will help put on its first “UndocuWeek” this month, has had to learn to live with uncertainty.

The House bill would make DACA recipients and other unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States before age 18 eligible to apply for a 10-year period of conditional permanent residence if they satisfy several requirements.

The proposed law allows eligible applicants to apply for permanent residence if they earned a college degree or enrolled in a bachelor’s program for two years, if they served in the military for at least two years, or if they worked in the U.S. for a three-year period.

“Life still goes on regardless of what’s going to happen there,” Rosado Veronica said.

Last month, the Utah Board of Higher Education unanimously approved a resolution vowing to help Dreamers succeed in the state. It aims to work with Utah’s public colleges and universities and K-12 schools to expand resources and streamline processes for admission and enrollment to undocumented and DACA-eligible students.

As Congress debates how to deal with undocumented immigrants already in the country, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is trying to get a handle on the crush of asylum seekers showing up at the border with Mexico, including thousands of unaccompanied children.

Asked what the best way is to decrease illegal immigration, 38% of Utahns say the U.S. needs to strengthen security at the border, while 23% say there must be increased access to legal entry or asylum.

Another 17% say providing economic or humanitarian aid to regions where migrants leave to make the journey to the border is the solution. Only 8% of Utahns say more restrictions on legal immigration or asylum is the answer.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who recently visited the Mexican border, blames President Joe Biden’s administration for creating a crisis at the border with its own immigration policies. Lee said the problems could be solved by going back to or expanding some now-abandoned Trump-era policies, including the “safe third country” asylum rule and the ability to send unaccompanied minors back to their own countries.

Lee has proposed legislation that he said would help stem the flood of illegal immigrants, eliminate the incentive to send children to the border alone, and dampen the power of cartels and coyotes. Senate Democrats, however, refused to consider the bill.

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program march to the Capitol during the “We Are All DREAMers” rally in Salt Lake City on Sept. 16, 2017.
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program march to the Capitol during the “We Are All DREAMers” rally in Salt Lake City on Sept. 16, 2017. A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows how Utahns feel about a citizenship path for “Dreamers.”
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the U.S. needs to do more to address the factors driving illegal immigration, starting with securing the border with a physical barrier and making E-Verify — a web-based system that allows businesses to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. — permanent and mandatory.

He favors a merit-based legal immigration system that gives people credit for English fluency, trade or technical skills, advanced degrees and personal savings. Illegal immigration, he said, undermines fairness and order.

Romney also is proposing to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour and tie future increases to inflation, while also trying to curb illegal immigration. He said the bill would protect American jobs by requiring employers to use E-Verify to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants.

“We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs, while also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration,” he said recently.