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July court ruling clouds future for DACA recipients

Frustration and uncertainty. Those are the words Carlos Reyes Rojas uses when he talks about the recent ruling by a federal judge in Texas making DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — illegal.

Reyes Rojas, 21, received DACA when he was 15.

Born in the Mexican state of Michoacan, Reyes Rojas said he has no memories of Mexico, having been brought to the United States when he was eight months old. Now a senior at Carleton College, with a major in political science and a minor in Latin American studies, Reyes Rojas plans to become an immigration attorney.

But a Texas federal judge’s ruling a few weeks ago has not only thrown Reyes Rojas’s future into uncertainty but also those of all DACA recipients. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen said DACA was illegal and blocked new applications. The ruling doesn’t cancel existing permits or affect renewals — for the moment.

Not only is the uncertainty frustrating, but emotionally he feels he is being pulled back and forth.

“You never know what is going to happen at the end of two years when your permit expires,” he said.

That anxiety goes back to 2017 when then-President Donald Trump suspended the program. It took three years and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to say that DACA could continue.

Many people mistakenly believe DACA is a status, said Tim Sanders Szabo, immigration attorney and pro bono manager at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

“It’s more accurately described as a protection,” said Sanders Szabo. “Essentially the Department of Homeland Security saying, for these certain types of individuals we will not remove them from the country.”

But because DACA is not permanent, it can be rescinded at any moment, he said.

DACA recipients are provided work permits and can apply for driver’s licenses, but what it does not provide is a pathway to citizenship.

There are an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 current DACA holders in the U.S.

While he is grateful to have DACA, Reyes Rojas said a permanent solution is needed.

DACA was created to give those children brought to the United States by their parents an opportunity for a better life. But in those nearly 10 years, a permanent solution has not materialized.

“That was the big talking point. It was all deferred action for children. But the thing is, we’re not children anymore. We’re young adults and we have this fear of not being able to live out our lives,” Reyes Rojas said. “We just can’t be living in this temporary space of time.”

The issue of providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants predates DACA, Sanders Szabo said. The first so-called DREAM Act bill goes back to 2000-2001.

“I really believe that there is hope for some sort of legislation to be passed,” he said.

There has also been talk of including another similar act in the upcoming reconciliation bill, which would only require a simple majority in the Senate to pass, he said.

“But either way, something needs to happen on a federal level,” said Sanders Szabo “This uncertainty just can’t continue. It’s been nearly a decade of this Limbo, and we need to do something.”

As Reyes Rojas enters his senior year of college, he is figuring out his future and thinking about a career. His current DACA expires next summer — at the same time he graduates. It means he must reapply for a DACA permit during his senior year.

“Anything can happen between now and next year, anything can change,” he said. “Maybe Congress will pass something, maybe it will get worse. I have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, instead of preparing for maybe a better future.”

Four area teens injured in Hwy. 19 crash, one severely
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A Northfield area teen suffered life-threatening injuries in a Thursday night crash near Carleton College, according to a Minnesota State Patrol report released Monday.

The teenage girl was a passenger in a 2001 Honda Accord traveling west at about 10:30 p.m. on Hwy. 19 when it reportedly hit a bridge and then slid down the north embankment. She was wearing a seat belt, according to the report.

Two other Northfield area teenage girls were passengers in the car. One of the two was reportedly unbelted. The driver, who was wearing a seat belt, was also an underage female. The three all reportedly received non life-threatening injuries.

The State Patrol reported that the roadway was dry at the time of the crash and that alcohol is not suspected as a potential cause. None of the four teens were identified by law enforcement because of their age.

Also responding to the crash were the Northfield Police and Fire departments and Northfield Ambulance.

Commission backs controversial development, but presses council to improve area safety
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For years, decades perhaps, Rieber Paulson planted evergreen saplings next to the stumps of trees cut down the previous December for local families’ Christmas trees.

Paulson, part owner of his family’s former Christmas tree farm, a 12-acre plot off Lincoln Parkway that developers want to house a 100-unit apartment and a couple dozen homes, was a little wistful as he addressed the Northfield Planning Commission last week. And maybe a bit admonitory.

In his younger days, Paulson, whose family bought the property in 1938, once saw farm land on the acres where his neighbors now live. He never dreamed of the development to come.

“As Northfield grew, streets and houses sprang up around our property,” he said, reminding commissioners Thursday that “the only thing certain in the future is that there will be change.”

But while Paulson spoke of change, more than a dozen others pressed the Planning Commission to not recommended change — a rezoning and plat approval for the controversial development that for weeks has filled the News’ opinion page with letters and the City Council chambers during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Commissioners voted 5-1 to recommend the zoning change for a portion of the property from Neighborhood General 1 (N1-B) to Neighborhood General 2. Commission member Will Schroeer voted no.

Schroeer agreed with residents who felt that adding hundreds of new residents to the area was untenable and dangerous. Across Lincoln is the new Greenvale Park Elementary School and the Community Education Center.

“If we can’t walk across the street to school we don’t have a safe transportation plan,” he said. “It’s fixable, but (the requirement) is not met.”

Commission Betsey Buckheit agreed with the sentiment, but saw things differently.

“Unfortunately, this is a situation the developer has inherited after the city has not demanded changes.”

Safety was addressed in a memo from the Commission to the City Council which noted that those improvements are outside its scope.

“The council must ensure temporary improvements are made to Lincoln Parkway immediately to slow traffic and create multiple safe, convenient crossings while planning for permanent design changes to carry out city policy,” said the memo. And, it asked the council to ensure the streets within the project meet city ordinances requiring a “pleasant experience and high degree of safety and convenience.”

The Commission also laid out its priorities for design, with pedestrians and bicyclists being at the top of the list. Vehicle access to homes was second. Slowing through traffic and on-street parking were lower priorities.

If approved by the City Council, the rezoning will make the entire property N1-B and simplify development. Without the rezoning, the project could still continue as the same uses are permitted in both zoning districts, but setbacks and other small differences would make designing the project and enforcement difficult, according to City Planner Mikayla Schmidt.

Recommendation of the plat, essentially a plan submitted by developer Rebound Real Estate, also passed the Commission on a 5-1 vote with Schroeer dissenting.

Again, safety was a concern for the board.

But City Engineer David Bennett cited an engineering study showing traffic would increase by an estimated 600 additional vehicles.

“That’s not a very high change on Greenvale Avenue,” he said.

While there was discussion about the new housing being built nearby on the St. Olaf campus, Bennett felt that it wouldn’t contribute much more to vehicular traffic.

He noted that a crosswalk to the school will be realigned and that crossing guards will be present at school arrival and dismissal times.

The City Council is expected to take up the requests next month.