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Immigration 101: What’s Happening with DACA and the Dream Act?


Update by Anna Núñez on December 28, 2017

Rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that helps 800,000 young immigrants is one of the cruelest, most significant actions Trump has taken as president.

13,176 Dreamers have lost their DACA status since September 2017.

122 DACA recipients are losing their deportation protection every day.

851 Dreamers lose DACA each week that Congress delays passing the Dream Act.

On September 5, 2017, on behalf of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA was coming to an end. The recission of DACA happened despite polls finding 2:1 that a majority (58 percent) of voters nationwide opposed the repeal of DACA, while just 28 percent supported its end. In 2012, President Obama created DACA in order to allow young undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, work legally, and obtain driver’s licenses — none of which they were able to do before the program began.

Trump’s decision to terminate DACA was huge — and is one of the most brutal and consequential actions Trump has taken thus far in his presidency. The Trump Administration has taken active steps to deport hundreds of thousands of young people who’ve done nothing but go to school, work hard, and present themselves to the government. The end of DACA and the fight to pass a legislative replacement have enormous consequences for the 800,000 young people who depend on having DACA status.

What is DACA’s current status?

The DACA program is being phased out gradually, as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security Memorandum on Rescission of DACA. Every Dreamer whose DACA would have expired between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 was allowed to apply for one last two-year renewal — but only if their paperwork was received by October 5, 2017.

Every Dreamer whose DACA expires on or after March 6, 2018 will only continue to have DACA status and work permits until their next DACA expiration date, unless their status is terminated or revoked. Because DACA only lasts two years, this rescission means all DACA recipients will eventually lose protected status and potentially face deportation by early 2020.

More than a hundred Dreamers every day are losing DACA status (including deportation protection and work permits), and this number will increase tenfold starting in March 2018. Dreamers and advocates are pressuring members of Congress to pass legislative relief for Dreamers, and each day that passes by without Congress taking action is highly consequential for Dreamers across the nation.

For more information about the end of DACA and related deadlines, see here.

What’s the plan to pass the Dream Act?

Advocates and allies have made it loud and clear that going after innocent DACA Dreamers was the worst mistake Trump ever made. In 2017, Dreamers and advocates in Washington, D.C. and around the nation used every opportunity to convey the importance of the Dream Act to members of Congress. In 2018, we will keep up this pressure on elected officials – and let them know that they face our wrath at the ballot box if they don’t deliver for Dreamers.

You can help by telling Congress to support a clean Dream Act. Contact your members of Congress here. According to the National Immigration Law Center, a clean Dream Act would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship for Dreamers without using them as bargaining chips to harm immigrant communities. A clean Dream Act means:

  • NO funding for a border wall and increased border security.
  • NO funding for interior enforcement and the separation of immigrant families.
  • NO funding for more detention centers in private prisons.
  • NO mandatory E-Verify.

Background: What is the Dream Act and DACA?

The Dream Act is a piece of legislation first introduced to Congress in 2001 that would create a pathway to citizenship for young people who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. These are young people who are American in every way, except on paper. They have grown up in this country and consider themselves to be American, but lack the documents to fully engage in society.

After Congress failed to pass the Dream Act in 2010 (despite 70 percent of Americans supporting the proposed legislation), the Obama Administration on June 15, 2012 announced a temporary program allowing Dreamers to come forward, pass a background check, and apply for work permits. The program was called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and allowed applicants to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.

DACA allowed nearly 800,000 young undocumented people to come out of the shadows, work legally, and live without fear of deportation. It helped drive economic growth, kept families together, promoted education and community integration, and strengthened civic ties. However, Dreamers were still not provided a pathway to citizenship under the DACA program. And, since it was created through an executive order, presidents after Obama had the authority to rescind the DACA program at any time.

This is why the Dream Act is critically important. Now that Trump has rescinded DACA, everything that Dreamers have built during the last five years is in danger. Dreamers risk losing their jobs, health care, higher education benefits, homes, and being deported from the only country they’ve ever known. Forcing Dreamers back into the shadows and putting them at risk of deportation would be unbelievably cruel and unacceptable. Congress must pass the Dream Act or other legislation that protects the lives of Dreamers.

More information on Dreamers can be found here.

Why did Trump terminate DACA?

DACA is such a sympathetic, common-sense program that even the rabidly anti-immigrant Trump repeatedly said that he wasn’t sure what he’d do with the program. He said that DACA was a “very, very difficult subject” and that he would “deal with DACA with heart.”

Advocates didn’t take his sentiments very seriously considering that his Administration continues to be staffed with right-wing anti-immigrant extremists like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior adviser and Stephen Miller.

Ultimately, the Sessions/Miller wing of the White House was handed an assist from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and attorney generals from nine other states. Paxton apparently became so impatient waiting for Trump to end DACA that he decided to issue an ultimatum through a 10-state coalition letter: Trump must rescind DACA by September 5, 2017, or face a lawsuit from Paxton and the other nine states. On September 5, Trump and Sessions caved to the threat, and ended the program.

Statistics about DACA / Support for DACA

More than three-fourths of Americans support legislation protecting Dreamers and allowing them to stay in the U.S.

Ending DACA without a Dream Act replacement would reduce U.S. GDP by $433 billion over the next 10 years.

Dreamers and legislation to protect them have wide support among Republicans. A number of Republicans have co-sponsored legislation that would protect Dreamers from deportation, while others signed onto a letter calling for a DACA fix before the end of 2017. Speaker Paul Ryan has expressed support for Dreamers, and articles have highlighted Republicans’ opposition to putting Dreamers in danger of deportation. Even Republicans generally considered hardliners on immigration — like Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) — have expressed support for Dreamers.

In addition, Dreamers have a wide and diverse base of supporters. In 2017, 1,850 leaders around the country — including faith leaders, local elected officials, members of Congress, leaders of advocacy groups, union chiefs, CEOs, mayors, governors, business leaders, sheriffs, and police chiefs — signed a letter urging Trump to protect Dreamers.

A report from the Center for American Progress demonstrates how important DACA has been to the lives of Dreamers, and why the Dream Act is necessary to secure these gains. Since DACA was implemented:

Why ending DACA is yet another example of Trump siding with White Nationalists

As the 2017 events in Charlottesville, Virginia and other incidents made clear, Trump has alarming sympathy for racists, extremists, and white nationalists. Ending DACA has long been part of the white nationalist agenda. It’s something that extreme racists wanted Trump to do for a long time — and they were initially frustrated when months of his presidency went by without Trump ending DACA.

“1/21/17 was the time to end” DACA, Ann Coulter once tweeted.

“I knew [Trump] was going to sell us out on some things,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the hate group Center for Immigration Studies, told the Atlantic. “I just didn’t think DACA was going to be what he sells us out on.”

“Good news about DACA,” white nationalist Richard Spencer tweeted in July 2017 about an article that wanted to use ending DACA as a bargaining chip for harsher immigration policies.

An openly white nationalist and anti-Semitic congressional candidate, Paul Nehlen, called the reports of a DACA deal “Ryan’s cynical ploy to hold the budget at gunpoint in order to give illegal aliens a path to citizenship,” as covered by Breitbart News.

Closely mirroring the demands of white nationalist groups who oppose immigration, Trump tweeted “there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!”

In deciding to end DACA — despite its popularity, contribution to the economy, and how much sense it made as a policy — Trump again demonstrated his willingness to side with the ugly anti-immigrant and pro-white supremacist fringe.


Read more about DACA