New York City – September 5, 2017: People protesting President Trump’s decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy in Lower Manhattan. (Shutterstock)
By JR Holguin
This June 15 will be ten years since then-president Barack Obama held a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House to announce the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. DACA protects children brought to the U.S. unlawfully from deportation and gives them work authorization.
“These are young people who study in our schools; they play in our neighborhoods; they are friends with our kids. They pledge allegiance to our flag,” Obama said in a speech that June of 2012. “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: On paper.”
Obama clarified that this was temporary, and Congress needed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act because “these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments.”
But a decade later, since that speech, much has yet to change for DREAMers.
The DREAM Act would protect the children referred to as DREAMers from deportation and have a pathway to citizenship. Since its introduction in 2001 by Congress, the DREAM Act has had as many as eleven iterations, and all have failed to garner the necessary votes to pass.
Throughout all this time, the more than 800,000 DACA recipients, who average the age of 26, contribute $9.4 billion in taxes yearly. Own and pay home mortgages. They have graduated high school and pursued higher education in college. Many DREAMers have secured jobs that are beneficial and essential to the country. DREAMers in the workforce include healthcare workers, educators, and thousands working in the food supply chain.
Despite their enormous contribution to this country, DREAMers continue to be only that, dreamers.
Things turned for the worse for DREAMers when Donald Trump was president. The Trump administration tried to terminate DACA but was unsuccessful. The administration planned to block any new DACA request but was met with federal lawsuits by DACA recipients and others who challenged the lawfulness of the repeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had not provided adequate reasons or followed appropriate processes in rescinding the policy. Soon after this ruling, Chad Wolf, then-DHS Acting Secretary, issued a memorandum in which he announced immediate changes to DACA policy while considering its future. Significant changes included “no new initial requests for DACA should be accepted” and “renewals of deferred action and the accompanying work authorization should be granted for one-year, rather than two-year, periods.”
A few years later, a federal district court removed the Wolf memorandum and directed DHS to reinstate the original DACA policy.
On his first day in office, January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum to the Secretary of DHS and the U.S. Attorney General to “take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.”
Then, in July of that same year, district court Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas dictated that DACA was illegal and “created in violation of the law.” Canceling Bidens’s order, he blocked the government from accepting new applications to the program. Yet, immigrants currently protected by the program get to keep their status and can continue to renew while the case goes through the appeals process.
This July, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Texas’ lawsuit challenging DACA, and the Biden administration will attempt to rescue the program and its recipients.
It is dispiriting that despite the evident tried-and-true results DACA has had on this country, DREAMers are still living with uncertainty and have no clear path to citizenship. It has been ten years since Obama and his administration took steps to “lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.” This country cannot allow another decade to pass while dreamers give and get nothing in return. Congress must act now.