For weeks, Deyvid Morales lived under a cloud of fear and uncertainty.
He and his wife, Ani, tried to hide it from their three young children, but every day they dealt with the looming possibility that Deyvid could be deported back to Mexico.
Wednesday morning, Deyvid and Ani said goodbye to their daughter, told her they were going to work, then went to an immigration courtroom in West Valley City where they and some three dozen others had hearings on possible deportation cases.
“When you’re an immigrant, there’s always the potential you’ll leave for work one day and not come back,” Deyvid said after a judge postponed his case for another three months while federal officials figure out whether his marriage to Ani will allow the Morales family to remain intact — a decision that has already dragged out more than a year.
Of course the decision was a relief, but it also means three more months of the interminable limbo that plagues so many immigrants.
And let’s be clear: Deyvid is not, to use President Donald Trump’s vernacular, a “bad hombre.”
He was born in Puerto Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, in 1991 and his mother brought him and his brother to the United States when he was 9 years old. This is not the first time since then that Morales has been entangled in the immigration enforcement net.
After graduating from high school, he was headed to college in Louisiana on a Greyhound bus when border agents detained him while they were taking a rest stop in Texas.
“It was life-changing. I was 45 minutes from the college of my dreams and instead I end up in a detention center,” he said.
Morales, then just 19 years old, spent 17 days in jail before his family was able to pay the $4,000 to get him out. He came back to Utah and was put on house arrest, unable to work or go to school for more than a year.
He was slated, then, to be deported, when President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, administratively halting deportation proceedings against people, like Morales, whose parents had brought them into the country when they were children.
It was a reprieve and a new lease on life for Morales and an estimated 800,000 like him who enrolled in the DACA program since its inception.
He developed two phone apps, one to let immigrants like him know their rights when dealing with authorities, the other to help Dreamers — who are not eligible for federal student aid — find scholarship opportunities.
He became a special ed teacher at Granger High, where he met Ani, who also worked for the district, and they later married. Eventually he was hired by the Mexican Consulate in Utah, where he worked for about 18 months in the department in charge of processing humanitarian visas, helping in cases where Mexican nationals were kidnapped, and running background checks.
Over the past several years, Morales traveled to Washington, D.C., three times to lobby Congress to pass a permanent fix for Dreamers, but our elected officials have been unable to muster the will to act.
Now, of course, the Trump administration is trying to rescind the Obama-era program. The president set a deadline for Congress to come up with a permanent solution — one that, like pretty much every deadline, Congress has blown.
Instead, Republicans have used the DACA kids for political leverage to try to get funding for Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.
Fortunately, two federal judges blocked the order rescinding the DACA protections and, last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the injunctions.
That means a little breathing room for those covered by DACA and potentially an opportunity for those like Morales to reapply — his DACA status lapsed while he was trying to get immigration officials to recognize his marriage.
That’s been held up, it appears, because of a handful of traffic tickets, a delay that now has pushed him to the brink of deportation and landed him in the courtroom Wednesday, fighting to keep his family together.
“This country has given me everything my country couldn’t give to me, but at the same time I feel like I’ve contributed to the country and given something back,” he said. “Why does Immigration and Customs Enforcement want to separate my family based on traffic tickets? … I don’t think ripping families apart based on traffic violations is a good policy at all.”
The thing is, none of this is good policy. The United States has been trying for decades to formulate some sensible immigration rules and all it’s produced is piecemeal fixes and patches to the absurd and unworkable status quo.
Polls have repeatedly found that more than 80 percent of Americans support legislation creating a permanent status for the Dreamers.
It is time — well past time, in fact — for Congress to stop playing games with the lives of human beings and create a workable solution. We’ll see if our legislators can muster the political will and the basic human decency to do the right thing.