Utah immigration activist, Deyvid Morales, 24, is using his often-in-Utah-headlines immigration battles to write free smartphone apps to help fellow undocumented immigrants.
His latest one seeks to help "dreamers" — immigrants who, like himself, were brought to the United States without papers as children by their parents — to find college scholarships.
It was inspired by a translating job he had at West Valley City's Granger High School, where he saw too many immigrants drop out "because they figure what's the point if college is not an option." But he knows college is possible because he managed to attend despite his own high-profile deportation fights.
It is his second smartphone app.
The first was designed to help undocumented immigrants who face detention and deportation. He developed it after he was pulled off a bus and detained by the Border Patrol in New Mexico — after he had received permission to remain in the country — and shouted out instructions to others about their rights.
"I can't be in every bus telling them their rights, but I could make something that would be like if I was in the bus and telling them what their rights were," Morales previously told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Now, he says, after developing his second app, "I'm not a writer. I'm not an artist. But there's a couple things that I can do, which is to organize information and make an app — and make it available for everybody. ... I'm looking for how I can help as many people as possible with what I have."
Morales' parents brought him to the U.S. from Mexico at age 9 without papers. His struggles and victories since then fuel his desire to help other undocumented immigrants.
He first landed in Utah headlines in 2011, when he had been traveling to start Bible school in Louisiana hoping to become a pastor. But immigration officials boarded his bus to seek people who were not U.S. citizens, and he was arrested.
He soon became a sort-of poster child for the plight of "dreamers," and was featured in several news conferences and news stories.
He tried to file a complaint against a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent for allegedly violating his civil rights by telling him not to speak publicly about his case or he would have his bond revoked and would land back in jail pending his deportation hearing.
Just before he expected to be deported, President Barack Obama issued an order to defer deportation of "dreamers" like him with clean criminal records — called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
In 2012, after receiving official deferral from deportation, Morales was pulled off a bus and detained by immigration agents again in New Mexico — an incident that provided inspiration for his first app.
Meanwhile, Morales has been attending Salt Lake Community College. His experiences changed the focus of his studies from becoming a pastor to hopes of eventually becoming a civil-rights lawyer.
He is also working full time at the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City — doing such things as working with the U.S. Border Patrol to help find missing Mexican nationals. "With my history, it's a little bizarre that I'm now often working with the Border Patrol."
He had worked as a para-educator for a couple of years at Granger High, which included translating for families of troubled immigrant students. He said he was disappointed that students and parents alike "just felt like college was not an option for them because of their status," so "it didn't matter if they dropped out."
But he believes "education is essential for Latinos. It is the way to a better life."
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill designed to help
undocumented aliens who are victims of violent crime. The new legislation
introduces time limits on law enforcement's response to their U.S. visa
applications in an attempt to standardize police forces' uneven treatment of
The federal government grants visas to undocumented
immigrants who help law enforcement try to catch criminals. The so-called U
visa allows the recipient to live and work in the United States for four years,
but to apply, a victim must first ask local law enforcement to verify their
California now becomes the first state to mandate that law
enforcement sign U visa certifications in a particular time frame.
The new law requires California law enforcement to verify a
victim's cooperation within 90 days, unless the agency can demonstrate that the
victim was uncooperative. If the victim is in the process of being deported,
the time frame shrinks to 14 days.
A Reuters investigation last year found vast geographic
disparities in law enforcement approaches to this visa, with some agencies
readily verifying cooperation and others stonewalling.
The report showed, for example, that law enforcement in
Oakland, California had verified 2,992 immigrants between January 2009 and May
2014 compared to just 300 in Sacramento, California, which has a slightly
Congress has limited the number of U visas to 10,000 a year,
and the program is heavily oversubscribed. In fiscal 2012, U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services received 24,768 applications from crime victims certified
by local law enforcement.
If the agency determines an immigrant is eligible for the
visa but the yearly cap has been reached, that person can still obtain
protection against deportation and work authorization while joining the U visa
California legislators unanimously passed the bill this
year, and Brown announced on Friday that he had signed it.
Crimes covered by the new law include sexual assault,
domestic violence, murder, prostitution, perjury, blackmail, kidnapping,
obstruction of justice and fraud in foreign labor contracting.
The bill, created by Senate leader Kevin de León and Speaker
of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins, is an attempt to boost immigrant trust in and
cooperation with law enforcement. “Every time a criminal goes free because the
victim fears deportation and the police, we are all a little less safe,” said
de León in a published statement.