Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era executive order that protects “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as undocumented children, is under threat. On June 29, attorneys general from ten Republican-majority states signed a letter addressed to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to contest the constitutionality of the law in court if the President fails to end the program by September 5, 2017.
In 2014, the Obama Administration hoped to expand the existing DACA program (which grants deferred action and employment authorization for renewable periods of two years), but plans were quashed when proposed expansions where challenged in court and ultimately ruled an overreach of executive power. Using this same precedent established by the 2014 case, the attorneys general of Republican-majority states are threatening to eliminate the program entirely. In the past week, DHS Secretary John Kelly said he was not confident the program would survive a court case, and Sessions hinted that the administration may choose not to defend the program at all.
The future of DACA is uncertain. President Trump has expressed mixed messages about his position on the DACA program. He campaigned on an anti-DACA platform during the months leading up to his presidency, but has appeared to soften his stance in recent months, even describing grantees of DACA as, “these incredible kids.” It is unclear if his opinion on the DACA program will impact policy choices surrounding the program’s termination.
If DACA is terminated, beneficiaries of the program would be in danger of losing their ability to seek or maintain employment, and would lose shelter from the protections against deportation.
Further, it is unclear how, if the program is ended, the administration will deal with the 800,000 young immigrants who are protected under DACA. Many have lived in the United States for most of their lives, and many have rooted their educations and careers here. The New York Times has compiled a list of stories and profiles of Dreamers who have gone on to attend and graduate college, join the workforce, and make meaningful impacts on their community.
In response to the recent threats to the program, many organizations are fighting on behalf of DACA by organizing petitions and rallies to protest the program’s repeal. If you are interested in supporting these efforts, links to petitions can be found here and here. Additionally, two U.S. senators, Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have recently introduced a new bipartisan version of the Dream Act, which would establish a permanent path to legalization for Dreamers. If you support legalization for Dreamers, we encourage you to write to your congressperson and ask him or her to support the bill.
If you are a DACA recipient, or a qualifying immigrant deciding whether to apply to DACA in light of recent developments, the National Immigration Law Center has created a list of frequently asked questions to help shed some light on the uncertain circumstances surrounding the program. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.