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A New Day for Dreamers: DACA Ruling and Biden Commitments Reflect Consensus of the American People

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On Saturday, federal judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was serving unlawfully when he issued this summer’s memo restricting access to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a result, the DACA program may be  poised to accept first-time applications from tens of thousands of Dreamers who have been ineligible to newly apply for the DACA program Trump tried to kill off DACA in September of 2017.

Meanwhile President-elect Biden and his team are committed to reinstating the DACA program and pursuing a path to citizenship for Dreamers. This weekend, incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain reiterated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that reinstating DACA was a day one priority.

When Trump was elected president, few would have predicted that Dreamers would emerge from four years of the most xenophobic president in our lifetime in this strong of a position. Led by the courage, organizing and personal testimonials of directly-impacted immigrant youth – as well as the hard work of litigators and allies – Dreamers have secured important commitments from the incoming Biden administration while winning the battle of hearts and minds for the American people. 

As this polling roundup shows, by at least a 3 to 1 margin, Americans favor a permanent solution that enables Dreamers to live their lives and plan their futures in the United States. 

Since we just came out of a rough and tumble election season, it’s worth noting that for Democrats who support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, essential workers and the entire 11 million population did not suffer as a result. In 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act (HR6) with unanimous support from all Democrats. Based on our 2020 Ad Watch campaign ad tracker, we could only find two races where Republicans tried to hang the HR6 vote for Dreamers around the necks of their Democratic opponents, and both of them – Pennsylvania Democrats Matt Cartwright in PA-08 (see here) and Conor Lamb in PA-17 (see here) – survived the ugly attack ads and won their races.

The other candidate who was attacked for supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants was Joe Biden. Stephen Miller even told Reuters in August that Joe Biden’s immigration stance is “a massive political vulnerability.” Trump attacked Joe Biden in ads and rallies as someone who “supports amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants.” 

But a battleground poll by GSG conducted for AV and others, finds that the attacks are not landing. Few voters, and even fewer swing voters, feel this attack raises doubts about voting for Biden, even though many believe the line to be true. According to GSG, “that’s because voters largely support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: 

The future of Dreamers was on the ballot in November and Dreamers won. Ending DACA and threatening the deportation of deeply rooted long term members of our society may be popular with the Trumpy hardcore base, but it is very unpopular with everyone else.  

On an issue that used to divide the party, Democrats today are remarkably unified and pro-immigrant. Fair and generous immigration policies are shifting from wedge issues to consensus positions backed by a strong multicultural majority. Pushed by a movement to take action, supported by a public that hungers for solutions, and backed by a party that stands united on these issues, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have an opportunity to become a proudly pro-immigrant, pro-refugee administration.