DACA’s Under Threat
The White House announced on Tuesday, Sept. 5, that President Trump has ordered an end to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the Obama-era program that protects from deportation more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
- In June 2017, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that on behalf of 9 states (TX, AL, AR, ID, KS, NE, SC, TN, WV), he would sue the administration if it didn’t terminate the 2012 DACA program by September 5, 2017.
- Paxton’s argument was that “the Executive Branch does not have the unilateral power to confer lawful presence and work authorization on unlawfully present aliens simply because the Executive chooses not to remove them.” (More here.)
- To avoid a lawsuit, President Trump called on Congress to replace the policy with legislation before DACA is scheduled to expire 6 months later on March 5, 2018.
- On Wed. evening, Sept. 13, Trump met with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the White House. According to the Democrats, they crafted a deal to save DACA and boost Mexican border security — without building a wall. Trump has zigzagged in reply. (New York Times coverage here and here.)
What DACA Does
DACA is designed to support undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before 2007 as children, but it is not a legal path to citizenship. Among the benefits and opportunities:
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – work permit
- Social security card
- Driver’s license (except AZ and NE)
- Credit score and credit card
- Employment benefits and responsibilities such as health care and paying taxes
- Utility bills in their name
- Draft eligibility, if they are male between age 18 and 26 (DACA recipients cannot receive federal benefits or federal financial aid.)
- Almost 800,000 DACA recipients participate in the program, having arrived in the US at an average age of six. A million more young people are eligible but have not signed up.
- Any DACA recipient whose DACA status expires by next March 5 can renew for 2 years, but they must apply by October 5. Any new applications received before September 5 will be reviewed.
- Once an individual’s DACA status expires, they can no longer work legally or have a driver’s license. They can also be deported, although officials say only individuals who have committed crimes will be deported.
- Over the next two years the program will shrink as individuals’ DACA status expires. Under this scenario, by 2020 there will be no more DACA recipients.
- Pending is a reevaluation of the “temporary protected status” conferred on immigrants from Sudan, South Sudan, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
- The forerunner of DACA was the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), initially proposed in 2001. In the late 1990s and early 2000s border enforcement had intensified, which caused many undocumented immigrants to settle in the US with their families, rather than travel back and forth to bring money home.
- Like their parents, the children of those families were not legal residents. The DREAM Act was devised to give children whose parents had brought them to the US a path to citizenship. It made extremely slow progress over the next 10 years.
- Meanwhile, the US government was steadily increasing deportations – up to 400,000 a year by 2010, 25 percent more than in 2007.
- When the DREAM legislation got stalled in Congress in 2012, President Obama created DACA, to be administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as a way for young undocumented immigrants to apply for protection from deportation themselves.
- Other initiatives were underway, and in 2013, a broad immigration bill passed the Senate but not in the House.
Resistance to Trump’s Action
- On Wed., Sept. 6, 16 state attorneys filed suit in NY federal court to stop Trump phasing out DACA.
- Opposition from tech executives
- Response to Trump’s order from across the political spectrum
- Poll saying a majority of Americans want DACA recipients to have a path to citizenship
Homeland Security’s Perspective
Letter to the community from the Berkshire Immigrant Center