Why DACA Matters

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The United States of America (US) observes the highest number of the immigrant population, compared to any other nation across the globe. There are over 40.7 million of them residing in the US today. Currently, the population of the foreign-born residents in the US is four times higher than any other nation in the world and 11.4 million of them are regarded as unauthorized immigrants that do not pose any legal status within the country.

There is a unique set of challenges faced by the unauthorized or illegal immigrants, in terms of economic well-being, the threat of deportation, and the lack of opportunities to work legally. In addition, unauthorized immigrants face many challenges, while applying for loans, driving licenses, attainment of higher education, and issues dealing with unemployment and low-wage jobs. To overcome the enduring challenges faced by unauthorized immigrants that make up 3.6% of the total population of USA , a lot of political debate occurred towards implementation of the immigration policies to provide assistance to such people.

The research available related to the undocumented youth population in the US reflects upon the barriers faced by the immigrants towards the acquisition of higher education and stable jobs. It is clear that everyday challenges faced by them are negatively affecting the health and well-being of the youth population. According to research, approximately 65,000 unauthorized students graduate from the high schools in the US each year, yet a mere 5-10% are able to secure admission in the college.

So what stops them? The fact is that unauthorized immigrants that are able to access the higher education within the US often do so by complying with the state laws that permit the illegal youth to pay their tuition fees at public institutes. One such law is directed by the California’s A.B.540. However, it was only effective in the State of California and many of the undocumented students faced severe disadvantages throughout their educational journey.

Change in Policy

On 15thJune 2012, Barack Obama used his prosecutorial authority to announce the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) potentially enhancing the eligibility of 1.7 million immigrants in the US.

The announcement of DACA was directed by the Department of the Homeland Security (DHS) that accepted the applications of the DACA from the undocumented immigrants that came to the US as children (as of under the age of 16). The successful applicants received a relief of two years from deportation in addition to legal work authorization. The continuity of the DACA application was made mandatory and renewal was needed every two years. Immediate relief was offered to undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation and provided them with the opportunity to work legally. This made DACA the only immigration policy that stood for the rights of the people after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

The announcement of the DACA was made in the June of 2012 and Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started to receive the applications from the unauthorized immigrants from 15th August 2012.

To prove the legal status, immigrants were required to submit a proof of documentation provided by the USCIS. The list of documents usually required passports in addition to birth certificates from the person’s country of origin in order to prove the age of the individual when they came to the US.

The report published by the USCIS represented the true identity of the total number of DACA applications that were approved in a timely manner. A large number of applications were approved in the last quarter of 2012 and more than 100,000 DACA applications were approved by the end of the year. Over 500,000 and 600,000 DACA applications were approved in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

On 20th November 2014, President Obama took it even one step further with an even more controversial program called Deferred Action for Parents of American and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

Under the DAPA Policy, the unauthorized immigrants who were the parents of the lawful U.S citizens and residents or lawful permanent residents (LPS) had the right to qualify for three years of deferred action. DAPA offered protection from the risk of deportation and also provided work eligibility to the applicants who met the criteria. With the implementation of these two similar policies, as many as 700,000 unauthorized immigrants out of potential 1.2 million have benefitted from it.

Abrupt End to DACA

 On 5th September 2017, the administration of President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program leaving more than 800,000 beneficiaries in a state of turmoil and confused about their immigration status. The reason provided by the Trump administration,  as  well as the Attorney General Jeff Session was the fact the DACA is unconstitutional. It is also clear that the decision to end DACA was popular among Trumps core electorate who have been against it from the beginning.

So is DACA Unconstitutional?

The precise answer to this question is yet to be ruled by the Supreme Court and calling the program unconstitutional now, is presumptive. Despite the fact that there are many vocal opponents and legal experts opposed to this issue, the constitutionality of the program is based on the practices of the commonplace.

Under the Article II, Section Three of the US Constitution, it has been stated that the president shall take care of the Laws to be executed faithfully. Emphasizing the immigration laws that involves the fate of millions of individuals targeted for deportation, The Supreme Court ruled a 4 on 4 sessions in accordance with the Obama’s DACA Program in June 2016.

The Court, however, remained deadlocked refusing the Senate of any confirmation hearings with respect to the Obama’s Supreme Court Justice Nominee, a judge named Merrick Garland.  Trump, on the other hand, nominated conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and with him in the Court; the chances of survival of the DACA program are nominal.

As the fate of DACA is left in the hands of the State and with a number of judges on the Supreme Court Panel; it is highly unlikely that Trump will temporary allow specific groups of immigrants to enter the US until the final decision is made. Even though the deferred action is highly constitutional, as stated by 100 law professors speaking in the favor of DACA, there is a huge opposition to this policy from the Trump supporters nothing is set in stone yet.

Is it an Amnesty to All illegals?

Even though Trump sessions have regarded DACA as a “unilateral executive amnesty” it is not exactly the case. The fact is that DACA does not represent all immigrants and they are required to apply individually for their case to be reviewed.  Another misconception about the program is that it contributed to the rise of the unaccompanied minors through the Southern border yielding severe humanitarian consequences.

DACA is only applicable to unauthorized immigrants that arrived in the US before the June 15, 2007, and have been residing in the country ever since. So it is unlikely that anyone would cross the border with a hope qualify for DACA after that date.

Who are the Dreamers?

The foundation of the DREAMers was laid in 2001 under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) introduced by the Congress. Although the DREAM Act was never passed, the proposal initiated immigration reforms to which presidential action plan had to be executed. The Congress proposed a legal pathway to the unauthorized immigrants back in 2010 to attain the status of permanent residency and eventual citizenship for the undocumented youth. In order to obtain the legal status, the immigrants had to demonstrate a proof of their arrival in the US before 16 years of age, a proof that they had been living in the US for 5 consecutive years and age in between 12-30 during the enactment of the bill. To become legally eligible for citizenship, the unauthorized youth must have graduated from any American High School and be able to demonstrate the High School Equivalent General Education Diploma (GED) and a proof of good moral character. Candidates meeting the criteria were eligible for a six-year conditional status and after this period, they were obliged to prove their clean criminal record throughout this period in addition to attending a college or serving in the US military for a period of 2 years. Approval of the above-mentioned criterion led to the provision of the legal permanent status and failure to do so resulted in deportation.

The term “DREAMers” originated from the DREAM Act which was proposed in 2001 offering legal status for the undocumented immigrants in return for attaining high education or serving in the military. The DREAM Act though was not accepted by the Congress, yet the term DREAMers stuck in the minds of the people. The most recent event that sparked the DREAMers was back in 2010 when Senate addressed the DACA Program Applicants as DREAMers. Since then, the term became a figure of speech which was used by many politicians within the Congress halls.

The public message of the DREAMers was vigilantly monitored by many potential immigration rights organizations to keep them focused and on point. Later, the DREAMers organisation came into being that designed the entire discourse of the campaign. The message of the campaign was centrally monitored to promote a unified message in order to gain the attention of the political parties.

In Obama’s words, these are the young individuals who studied in our schools, played within our neighborhoods, became friends with our children and pledged alliance with U.S. flag every single day. They are the true Americans by heart, by the mind, and in every single way but only one: on paper. They came in the country with their parents, some even as infants and had no idea that they were unauthorized until they applied for their dream jobs or a driving license, or even for college scholarships.

Obama wanted to grant similar basic rights to such immigrants that are practiced nation-wide by all the legal Americans. According to Department of Homeland Security (2011), there are a few situations where DREAMers have the chance to attain citizenship by attaining higher education in order to become eligible for high-skilled jobs. This case, in particular, deals with the involvement of the employers in the US who are interested in sponsoring the unauthorized immigrants for permanent residency status. Until then, DREAMers protected under the DACA  benefit from the Protection Act 245(i) stated under the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act.

The undocumented youth began to break the silence regarding their existence by publicly appearing with the slogan of DREAMers that supported the DREAM Act. The message of the DREAMers was to erase the differences between the Americans and the unauthorized youth. They united and attended training sessions and workshops in order to be transformed into the activists that stand for a similar cause.

Are DACA and DREAMers the Same Thing?

“Dreamer” is the term which is most commonly used to address the DACA receipts. DREAMers are also the same unauthorized immigrants protected by the DREAM Act, introduced in 2001 by the Congress yet it stalled high-profile debate after being reintroduced by the Senate in 2011. DACA Program was launched by the Former President Obama in response to the failure of the DREAM Act, thereby granting protection to the same unauthorized immigrants specifically those who were brought into the US as children.

Since 2012, the media and the politicians are actively discussing DACA and DREAM Act interchangeably, despite the fact that both have different meanings. When the Trump Administration announced that they were ending the DACA Program executed by President Obama, it referred to the problem faced by 690,000 people already applied for the good faith under the Obama’s illegal Program and whose work permit would start to expire from March 5, 2018.

On the other hand, termination of DACA is different from approving the DREAM Act Amnesty from the very beginning. According to Bauer (2017), approximately DREAMers received 100,000 work permits on the basis of the DACA and if they failed to renew the contract every two years, they would be immediately deported if they have not yet filed for a permanent green card application process. According to Gelatt (2017), the revival of the DREAM Act from scratch could offer amnesty to over 2 million individuals, as stated by the Immigration Expansionist Migration Policy Institute.

DREAMers in the Military

According to Pentagon, there are over 900 unauthorized immigrants regarded as “DREAMers” that are currently serving in the US military. A major hurdle would be faced by the Trump and his Administration if they continue to implement on the winding down of the Obama-era DACA Program. DREAMers serving in the military are protected by the US Government in terms of health benefits and language skills since it is vital to join the US Military Troops. Trump new policy would force the DREAMers within the Military to rescind their protected status in the beginning of the March 2018.

What will happen to the Dreamers?

A short answer to this question is that no one knows exactly. Even though President Trump has publicly announced that the DACA receipts have nothing to worry about in the next six months until a final verdict is provided by the Supreme Court, it does not offer any real piece of mind to those  affected. What happens after those 6 months is unclear.

In the meanwhile, Trump Administration has requested the Congress to look critically into this matter by publicly tweeting that the lawmakers must get prepared to do their jobs in a prompt manner. Trump also stated that he would like to revisit the DACA Program and its illegal status if the Congress is unable to legalize it. There has been peer pressure from both the Republicans as well as the Democratic Party upon the Congress.

According to Glum (2017), the most probable solution to this DACA Program is to fix the actual problem. The root cause of the allegations made by the Trump Administration over the illegality of DACA Program has to be discovered and addressed in an effective manner. The actual problem lies within the security of the US border. The proposed solution to the Trump allegations offered by the Democratic Party is to legally support and revise the DREAM Act, which was first introduced by the Democratic Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard with the positive backup of over 120 lawmakers.

Trump has advised the DHS that no DREAMers with clean criminal record are the priority of the enforcement unless they had been involved with violent gang members. However, the critics have claimed that the Trump’s Administration has also swept up many unauthorized individuals with no criminal background.  It is also undeniable that the deportation statistics during the first year of Trump Presidency rose by 31 percent as compared to the last year.