When he was a child, Giancarlo Tejeda came to Florida from Columbia with his parents on a tourist visa.
“In a sense it did start out as a vacation,” Tejeda said. “But it was then a matter of leaving a place where we thought we were unstable, unsafe.”
Tejeda’s family experienced firsthand the oppressive violence brought on by guerilla factions. The threat of violence coupled with economic instability led the Tejeda’s to apply for asylum during their stay.
“Given all these circumstances, we felt that it was more than enough to qualify for that measure,” Tejeda said.
Inefficient bureaucracy and a lawyer who didn’t file necessary paperwork correctly hindered the Tejeda’s attempt, and so, along with the rejection of their asylum request came a letter of deportation.
“But at that point we had already left our lives behind,” Tejeda said.
Tejeda, 20, is a recipient of the Obama-era immigration policy known as DACA, or, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
His eligibility to remain in the country expires in several months, he says.
Others like him have scrambled to apply for renewal following President Trump’s decision to rescind the program in September, and following the devastation and disruption caused by the major hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, DACA recipients whose deadlines are approaching have faced setbacks in the process.
Citing the October 5 deadline for DACA renewals, 38 senators called on the Trump administration to extend the deadline.
Senator Bill Nelson is one of three senators who are leading the group, along with Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Menendez (D-NJ).
“These major hurricanes significantly disrupted day-to-day living operations these states and territories,” the three senators wrote in a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke.
The extension would allow persons applying for renewal more time to gather the proper paperwork as well as the money for a $495 fee.
Diana Moreno, Assistant Director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at UF, said she knows of more than a few students at the university who were setback by the natural disasters.
“Students who have tried furiously to get the paperwork, money, legal help to be able to apply for the renewal of their DACA are worried now because of Hurricane Irma and everything it has delayed,” Moreno said.
The cost for renewal can quickly double from the initial 495-dollar fee if applicants seek legal help – which they do often, according to Giancarlo Tejeda.
“It would be very beneficial for those who’s DACA is set to expire,” Tejeda said of the efforts to extend the October 5 Deadline.
Tejeda, who serves as Vice President of external affairs for CHISPAS, an immigrant’s rights student organization, said the hurricanes also disrupted the grassroots efforts by DACA recipients, citing setbacks to a forum held on campus Tuesday about the rescinding of DACA and a rally held Thursday in support of the program.
At the rally Thursday, City Commissioner David Arreola was in attendance to shake hands and march in support of DACA.
“I think [they’re] doing the right thing in the Senate,” Arreola said of the lawmakers’ efforts. “The ultimate goal that we all want to see is permanent DACA legislation. Something that cannot be revoked by the stroke of a president’s pen.”