Law students organize panel conversation about DACA

By Britny Mortensen

The Minority Law Caucus and the Student Immigration Law Association hosted an event entitled, “The American D.R.E.A.M: A Panel Conversation about DACA” on Sept.13 2017 in the moot court room at S.J. Quinney. The panel came a week after the Trump Administration rescinded DACA and increased pressure on Congress to pass immigration legislation.

Panelists included U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Dustin B. Pead;  immigration attorney and College of Law alumnus Jonny Benson; and two representatives from the University of Utah’s Dream Center —Alonso R. Reyna Rivarola and Brianda de Leon.

Pead, who is a former immigration judge and currently a federal magistrate judge, was detailed to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee as immigration counsel from 2001 to 2002 and helped to draft and name “The Dream Act.”  Pead spoke about the history of the bill in Congress and how it led to DACA, the 2012 executive order issued by President Barack Obama. 

Reyna — a DACA recipient himself — and Leon discussed the real-life implications of the DACA order and rescission have upon recipients, all of whom were brought to the United States before they were 16 years old, graduated high school, and have no criminal record.

Benson explained the impact DACA had on his immigration law practice and described the intricacies of the immigration system. He concluded his remarks by stating,  “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” quoting the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, with a call to the law students to inform themselves and take action.

The panel ended with a discussion about the possible future of DACA and immigration legislation. Pead said the only way for anything to get passed in Congress is if both sides compromise.

Hours after the event, Democratic senators announced discussions about a deal with President Trump to protect young DACA immigrants and increase border security.  The event was covered by local media outlets including ABC4 and Telemundo.


Britny Mortensen is a law student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law who co-organized the DACA event on Sept.13.