Locals react to potential impact of ending DACA in southwest Virginia

More than 12,000 in Virginia DACA-approved

SALEM, Va. – People in the Roanoke Valley are reacting to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA.

The program, which protects thousands of children brought into the country illegally, will be rolled back over the next six months.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 12,000 young people in Virginia have been approved for DACA. So WSLS 10 spoke with a local immigration attorney about what this move could mean for them.

Since 2012, DACA has allowed hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers to get driver's licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs.

"DACA really changes, changed people's lives," local immigration attorney Christine Poarch said.

Poarch has worked with local immigrants, including many dreamers, for years. She said she's concerned about how ending the program will impact southwest Virginia in particular.

"When you have an incredibly large percentage of folks who graduate from local universities and settle and create businesses within so many miles of that university, we, in our area, have an enormous amount to gain and we sometimes tend to be a little short-sighted about where those real benefits come when we're talking about immigrant populations," Poarch said.

According to the Center for American Progress, it's estimated the reduction in Virginia’s workforce would cost the commonwealth more than $711 million in annual gross domestic product losses.

"There are U.S. employers who will be calling, who will be saying what do I do? How do I complete my basic registration paperwork when this individual is losing their status on this date?" Poarch said.

Poarch says it's now up to people to tell their lawmakers where they want to see immigration reform headed next.

"Demand of our leaders a responsiveness to this issue that is indicative of the values that we have as a nation," Poarch said.

Click here to see how local lawmakers are responding to the decision.