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KC Chef, DACA recipient facing uncertain future

By: Lindsay Shively

Posted at 5:03 PM, May 14, 2020

and last updated 11:01 PM, May 14, 2020

41Kshb Kansas City


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Pirate’s Bone Burgers reopens Saturday, Chef Zaid Consuegra says the dining room will stay closed to customers. The kitchen at the plant-based restaurant in the Crossroads Arts District has been closed since March because of COVID-19. Consuegra said they had to furlough their staff of twelve.


“All these are people with lives and bills and you’re gonna have to be that person that says, ‘Sorry, I cannot pay you anymore and you’re let go,’” he said.


Consuegra said a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program will help pay the staff. Now he and his partners are hoping they get enough business through takeout and delivery orders to keep the restaurant running.


But Consuegra also said that as a DACA recipient, he isn’t just worried about the business.


“At this point, we’re just waiting on the Supreme Court to rule on it,” he said.


The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether the Trump Administration can end the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program. It allows some people brought into the United States as children to avoid deportation and be eligible to work.


“A work card is good for two years,” immigration attorney Michael Sharma-Crawford said. “So they can have employment authorization. They can obtain a social security number and a driver’s license. They have a valid ID.”


A December 2019 report from the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services shows there are approximately 649,070 active DACA recipients in the United States with 3,480 in the Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas “core based statistical area”, 5,620 living in Kansas, and 3,030 living in Missouri.


“It unlocks the door to normality," Crawford said about DACA.


Consuegra said he lived in Mexico City before he came to the Kansas City area as a child. Last year, he traveled to Washington D.C., including his story with others sent to the Supreme Court. He also shared his story with Bon Apetit magazine.


“If DACA goes away, we don’t have any protection,” Consuegra said. “So I will be on the line for departure for sure.”


Sharma-Crawford says if DACA ends, while he can’t be sure what will happen, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests would likely come down to a matter of resources.


“They don’t have the time. They don’t have time to go find them so they’re gonna prioritize them” he said. “I think the fear is real. I think, strategically from a resources point of view, you’re going to see ICE targeting DACA kids who’s work cards have expired, who have removal orders.”


An ICE official told us that while they can’t speculate about what will happen with DACA, most of their arrests come from people “in local jails who have already been arrested by local authorities for other crimes” and that anyone who “has DACA but commits a crime may be subject to arrest and ultimately removal from the United States”. If DACA is rescinded, then DACA holders “would be subject to the same enforcement as any other illegally present individual."


That ICE official also said, at least right now in the midst of a pandemic, that “ICE is focusing resources only on public safety threats and those who may be subject to mandatory detention”, delaying enforcement or using “alternatives to detention” until after the crisis for others.


“I refuse to go back to the shadows,” Consuegra said. “I refuse to go back into like fully undocumented.”


“Now is the time to talk to competent immigration counsel. Understand the avenues you have ahead of you in whatever murky uncertain future we have; That’s my advice,” Sharma-Crawford said. “If you’re a DACA recipient, you have a child, you have a spouse who is a citizen you guys have been waiting, don’t wait."


“If you don’t understand your parents’ immigration past or your immigration past,” he said. “Now is the time to learn about that.”