GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- "It's been a lot of stress and a lot of panic," said Katie White, an accredited representative accredited by the Department of Justice practicing immigration law and directing the Immigrant Connection at City Life Church in Grand Rapids.
Nearly 800,000 people and their families' lives hang in the balance with the Trump Administration announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but deadlines are approaching quickly.
An informational meeting was held at City Life Church Wednesday.
"It feels almost as if [people's lives] are being used as a bargaining chip or motivator to get something moved through Congress," White said. "I think that's really sad that people's livelihoods and their families' abilities to work and drive are being put at stake."
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, their office must receive renewal applications by October 5 for DACA recipients whose status expires between September 5 and March 5, 2018.
White suggests DACA recipients and others meet with a lawyer to get screened for other possible relief, besides renewal.
"There are a few limited pathways and sometimes people qualify for visas based on being a victim of a serious crime, or sometimes there are pathways they didn’t know they had," said White. "If when they had DACA they traveled on advanced parole and came back, there may be the option."
With ongoing protests and mixed bipartisan reactions, the spotlight is on the Dream Act of 2017 introduced in the Senate on July 20. Wednesday, senators of both parties called for an immediate vote on the act this fall.
"If a clean Dream Act does not come to the floor in September, we're prepared to attach it to other items this fall until it passes," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D - NY, Wednesday.
"The Dream Act would actually offer a pathway to a legal status, a pathway to citizenship, instead of having to pay $500 every two years to defer the deportation for the rest of their life," said White.
Meanwhile, White says, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have been more active in West Michigan, detaining more people who are not targeted convicted criminals. She stresses for everyone to know their rights. She says ICE officers must have a signed warrant to come into your home.
"Immigration enforcement cannot enter your home without permission, but if you open the door, in the eyes of Immigration, that is seen as giving consent to them entering your home," said White.
Officials with the Detroit ICE office did not further clarify Wednesday, but according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, once a DACA recipient's status expires, USCIS will not proactively send that person's case to ICE, as of now.
"Immigrant Connection and City Life Church, we stand with Dreamers and with immigrants in our community," said White.
"We wish everyone the best and we’re here if anyone is needing immigration legal assistance."
Immigrant Connection is located at 574 S. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids: (616) 855-0563.