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Today marks the fifth anniversary of the implementation of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Dreamers are once again making headlines all over the country.
DACA allows nearly a million young people to come out of the shadows, work legally, and live in relative fear of deportation. It is widely considered to be one of President Obama’s most popular programs and has helped drive economic growth, keep families together, promote education and community integration, and strengthen civic ties throughout the country.
However, Donald Trump and Republicans have pledged to end the program and the future of DACA remains unclear.
Will all the recent news about Dreamers, the Dream Act, and DACA, we decided to answer some frequently asked questions we’ve been seeing online.
If you have additional questions not covered here, please contact us and we’ll try to answer them.
The Dream Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a piece of legislation first introduced to Congress in 2001 that grants a pathway to citizenship to young people who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. These young people are American in every way except on paper.
Dreamers have grown up in this country and consider themselves to be American, but lack the documents to fully engage in society. The Dream Act is a bill that would provide a permanent solution for them.
In 2012, President Obama, under intense pressure from immigrant youth, announced the launch of DACA, a temporary program that allows Dreamers to come forward, pass a background check, and apply for work permits. The program is formally called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” or DACA for short.
In just five years, DACA has allowed nearly one million young people to come out of the shadows, work legally, and live in relative fear of deportation. It is widely considered to be one of President Obama’s most popular programs. DACA helped to drive economic growth, keep families together, promote education and community integration, and strengthen civic ties throughout the country. However, Dreamers were still not provided a pathway to citizenship under the program. And, since it was created through an Executive Action, presidents and administrations after Obama could rescind it at any time, rendering this program particularly vulnerable to changing political climates and rhetoric.
After Congress failed to pass the Dream Act in 2010 despite 70% of Americans supporting the proposed legislation, President Obama, in 2012, announced the launch DACA but the temporary program lacked a critical measure; it stopped short of providing a pathway to citizenship. And, since it was created through an executive action, Donald Trump could rescind it at any time.
A recent poll from Global Strategy Group found that by more than a 2:1 margin, 58%-28%, Americans oppose an effort to repeal DACA.
President Trump and his Administration have gone both ways on DACA, with a public promise to “immediately terminate” it, and the insistence that President Trump has “a big heart” on the issue. Since his inauguration, however, more than a dozen Dreamers have been arrested, detained, and (in some cases) released.
Trump arrested Daniel Ramirez Medina after claiming that Daniel was part of a gang, a completely unfounded and untrue claim. He also arrested Daniela Vargas, who was not detained until she spoke out about her case. And he deported Juan Manuel, a Dreamer with active DACA, who was removed just a few hours after he was first picked up.
That’s why one of the most important immigration fights with the Trump administration will center on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the 1.9 million DACA-eligible young people across America who could directly benefit from it.
The truth is, the future of DACA is under serious threat and many Republicans aren’t waiting for Donald Trump to announce a decision to end the program. Republicans have a two pronged approach to end the program outside of a decision from Donald Trump.
Texas and other Republican-led states successfully blocked the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) policy, which never went into effect.
Now, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying to end DACA using the same strategy Republicans used to block DAPA in 2014. The original DACA program, created in 2012, was originally not part of this earlier, DAPA-focused lawsuit. But now, Paxton is threatening to amend that lawsuit to include DACA.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a coordinated assault on DACA and he is partnering with state Attorney Generals in nine other states. Texas AGKen Paxton and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are trying to force President Trump into ending the program.
The Republican state officials are also threatening that if the Trump Administration doesn’t end DACA by September 5th, they will sue to block the program before the notoriously anti-immigrant Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
AG Paxton has a willing ally in embattled U.S. Attorney General Sessions, who has long opposed DACA and would only have to refuse to defend the program in court for it to come to an end.
Back in 2012, then-Arizona governor Jan Brewer changed state policy to deny driver’s licenses to individuals with deferred action under DACA. The Arizona Dream Act Coalition and individual DACA recipients in Arizona filed a suit to challenge Arizona’s changed policy in court. The coalition and DACA recipients argued that Arizona’s driver’s license ban violated their constitutional right to equal protection under the law and the principles of federal supremacy in the area of immigration law.
Dreamers in AZ won their case and the District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision blocking Arizona’s policy and allowing DACA recipients to get licenses. As a result, DACA recipients in Arizona have been able to obtain driver’s licenses since 2014.
However, after the election of Donald Trump, Arizona petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision. A few months later the Supreme Court issued an invitation for the United States Solicitor General, the administration’s officer responsible for representing the views of the federal government of the United States to the Supreme Court, to file a brief n Brewer v. Arizona Dream Act Coalition. In other words, the Supreme Court requests the Trump administration’s stance on the constitutionality of DACA, a stance that is undoubtedly shaped by Jeff Sessions’ track record of anti-immigrant activism.
Once the Solicitor General submits his brief, the Supreme Court will then decide whether to take the case. While it’s true that we do not know what position the Solicitor General will take, we do know that leaders at the Department of Justice have long railed against Dreamers and DACA. The views of the Solicitor General will be viewed as the position of the Trump administration on this issue.
If the Court decides not to take the case, then the Ninth Circuit decision, permanently blocking Arizona’s DACA driver’s license ban, will remain the final word on the case. If the Court decides to take the case, the case will then move forward to be briefed, argued, and eventually decided by the Supreme Court. Either way, the position of the Trump administration will be exposed.
Here at America’s Voice, our stance on the Dream Act is clear: President Trump needs to keep DACA in place until Congress can enact a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers.
In July of 2017, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the Dream Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would grant Dreamers legal status and put them on a path to citizenship.
The Dream Act has been introduced at least ten times before, starting in 2001, with the last major push coming in 2010. Previous versions have passed either the House or Senate, but not both in the same Congressional session. In addition, a version of The Dream Act was included in SB 744, the immigration bill that passed in the Senate in 2013.
This year, however, the introduction of the Dream Act has special significance due to the threats against DACA, the deferred action program that currently protects Dreamers. If Donald Trump rescinds DACA, as he has promised to do, key protections will be taken away from some 800,000 Dreamers, kicking them out of the workforce and putting them in danger of deportation. This cannot be allowed to happen, which is why advocates are asking Trump and members of Congress to keep DACA in place until the Dream Act is passed.
There are a number of reasons why Congress should support the Dream Act.
The Dream Act is especially needed in the Trump Era because Dreamers who have DACA have already given their information to the government and could end up as targets if DACA is rescinded. To allow young immigrants to apply for a government program, and then to use information that they willingly supplied against them, would be unimaginably cruel.
However, anti-immigrant hate groups like the Center for Immigration Studies, which has the ear of many Republicans in Washington, DC, have called the Dream Act a “non-starter” if it doesn’t include “any enforcement measures or legal-immigration offsets.”
This likely means that the majority of Republicans in the House won’t vote for the Dream Act unless it includes measures to militarize the border or drastically reduce immigration to the United States. And—Trump has already said he won’t support the Dream Act so the future of the legislation remains unclear. That’s why we need to do everything we can to build local support for Dreamers and the Dream Act.
We are continuing to build support for Dreamers and the Dream Act locally through our Dreamer Dinners campaign.
Through Dreamer Dinners, undocumented youth and their allies have an opportunity to break bread with elected officials and discuss the importance of allowing Dreamers to live, work, and drive legally in the United States.
Hosting a Dreamer Dinner with an elected official in your community is easy. Click here to let us know that you are interested in joining our campaign and I will help you plan your own Dreamer Dinner.
We need your help to build a groundswell of public support for DACA to ensure the program is kept in place until Congress can pass a bill like the new Dream Act. By hosting a Dreamer Dinner, you can show your community that undocumented immigrant youth deserve to pursue their dreams here.