On Tuesday, September 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be terminated in six months and urged the U.S. Congress to pass replacement legislation before March 2018. The program, the result of a 2012 executive order by former President Barack Obama, shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Under the law, any illegal resident who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and was younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012, can apply for a two-year deferral from being considered for deportation. To be eligible, he or she must have never left the country, graduated from high school or served in the US Armed Forces, and never been convicted of a crime. Since the deferrals can be renewed and also include work permits, DACA effectively allows participants, or “DREAMers,” as they are often called, to live in the U.S. with no repercussions.
According to Sessions, the decision to terminate the program has no immediate implications for the estimated 800,000 “DREAMers.” Also, while no new applications have been accepted since the September 5 announcement, the estimated 200,000 people whose status expires before March 5, 2018 can request a two-year deferral if they send in their application by October 5, 2017.
However, should Congress fail to pass legislation to replace the executive order by March 5, 2018, deferral permits expiring after that date will be ineligible for renewal. If that happens nearly 300,000 people will lose their right to live in the country in 2018, and more than 320,000 will face a similar fate from January to August 2019. They would, therefore, be subject to deportation, and more importantly, be unable to legally work in the United States.
As one would expect, the reaction to the news has been mixed. Advocates believe that President Trump is doing the right thing by forcing Congress to either finally approve or reject the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), that was first proposed in 2001. In fact when DACA was created, many politicians considered it a short-term measure to protect undocumented residents until a broader immigration bill was passed. However, while such a bill did pass the Senate in 2013, it was never approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Critics, however, disagree and believe it is cruel to deport these residents who arrived here at a very young age and consider themselves Americans. A survey conducted by a team led by Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego indicates that DACA recipients are hard-working and make a significant contribution to the country’s economy. Mr. Barack Obama believes it's “basic decency” to allow the immigrants to live in America. The former U.S. leader says, “Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us."
Hopefully, American politicians will set aside their differences and come up with a just and feasible solution to help the 800,000 “DREAMers, a significant number of whom are from Mexico.
Resources: Vox.com, PBS.org, Wikipedia.org, americanprogress.org