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Dreamers Protected by Trump For Now, Long-Term Status Still In Question

by Countable | 6.16.17

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly signed a memorandum protecting so-called Dreamers, young immigrants covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in direct opposition to President Donald Trump’s campaign statements. In April 2017, President Trump softened his rhetoric, saying that Dreamers should "rest easy."

On the campaign trail then-candidate Trump insisted that, if elected, he would "immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties." He was referring to DACA and a related program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which President Obama tried to put in place in 2015.

Before DAPA could be implemented a coalition of 26 attorneys general, all represneting states led by Republican governors, sued to block the policy. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the court was deadlocked in a 4-4 decision, leaving the injunction imposed by lower courts in effect without setting a precedent. The rescinding of the DAPA policy, explained in a DHS news release Thursday, officially ends that legal battle.

DACA was introduced by the Obama Administration in 2012 to address immigration issues for people brought to the United States as young children. It does not provide a road to citizenship. Instead, it provides eligible young immigrants with legal status and work permits, as long as they meet certain requirements. The requirements for DACA status (though meeting them does not guarantee approval) are that an applicant:

  • Came to the United States before their 16th birthday.

  • Has lived continuously in the United States since 15 June 2007.

  • Was under age 31 on 15 June 2012 (i.e., born on 16 June 1981 or after).

  • Was physically present in the United States on 15 June 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS.

  • Had no lawful status on 15 June 2012.

  • Has completed high school or a GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school.

  • Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

It is estimated that approximately 1.7 million immigrants are DACA eligible, though currently the program has protected 787,000 young people from deportation. DACA-approved immigrants must reapply every two years for a renewal of their status.

From the outset the DACA program faced opposition, primarily from Republicans, who argued that the president does not have the right to set immigration policy unilaterally. In 2013 nearly all Republicans in the House (and two Democrats) voted to defund DACA. In practice, however, the move had no real teeth because the program largely pays for itself through application and renewal fees, so it doesn't depend on congressional appropriations.

Trump administration officials were quick to point out that the current memorandum does not permanently resolve the DACA question. The New York Times quotes Jonathan Hoffman, DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs:

"There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart…[John Kelly, DHS Secretary] has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue."

This week’s administrative actions, coupled with an announcement in March that the administration will not pursue a policy of separating parents and children apprehended crossing the border, has quelled some concerns about increased immigration enforcement’s effect on families. But the official end of DAPA will affect the lives of an estimated 10 million U.S. citizens and lawful residents who live in a household with at least one adult who would have been covered if the policy had gone into effect.

Should Congress institute permanent protections for those immigrants currently covered by DACA or who would have been covered by DAPA? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Joe Frazier Photo via Flickr / Creative Commons)*

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