The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy was established by former president Barack Obama in June 2012. President Donald Trump rescinded the policy Sept. 5.
Two days later, Trump tweeted, “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about - No action!”
Now, the future is unclear for the thousands of people enrolled in this program.
Q: What is DACA?
A: It is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was done through executive action by the Obama administration. It is not a law, but ... it allows for people who arrived in the United States as a child — so their parents came here illegally and brought them without their own volition — to get a work visa, to attend college and serve in the military. They have to meet a lot of requirements: they couldn’t have been in any trouble with the law, they on average, were 6-ish years old when brought to the U.S., and most right now average to be 26 years old. They have to re-apply every couple of years and pay $500 to get the benefits.
Q: Is it limited?
A: Yes, it is limited through an application process. There are about 7-8 hundred thousand applicants that are accepted. It is not a guarantee for these people. They have to update their application every couple of years.
Q: Where are the DACA applicants from?
A: They can be from anywhere. Primarily they are from Central American countries.
Q: Are these applicants the “Dreamers”?
A: Yes. The language that you hear comes from the original act ... the DREAM act.
This is why you hear those dual terms “DACA” and “Dreamer.” “Dreamer” was the term they used in congress when they tried to get a bill passed, and DACA was what it was called when the president passed it.
To complicate matters more, some of these DACA recipients have married each other, and some of these recipients have had children. The question now is, are their children U.S. Citizens? What will their kids do? Will their kids go to their origin country with them or what? Sometimes it gets lost with everything that these are real people. They have built up a life here. They have homes and cars, and what do they do if they get deported? Do they lose their property? The logistics of ending this program will put a lot of people in a lot of uncertainty.
Q: Why was DACA created?
A: We have all these people who live here and came here illegally, and it’s this huge problem, right? And there are a lot of conflicting ideas to whether or not we should provide this path to citizenship for them. Trump talked about sending them all back which, feasibly, is a really hard problem too. Again, they came here not on their own choice, but were brought here by their parents. Many of them speak English as their first language. They don’t remember where they came from.The idea of deporting them to a country that they don’t remember is really hard.
Q: Why is Donald Trump
A: The Republican argument is sort of two-fold. This sort of “hardline” immigration argument is that it doesn’t matter; they came here illegally, they shouldn’t be here, there is a process, and their family didn’t follow it.
For the Republican and far-right extreme, the argument is they are here illegally, broke the law, and we shouldn’t help them. The other argument you hear made is that this should have been done through congress. President Obama didn’t have the authority to act this way. You are hearing this through President Trump, where he says that President Obama never had that authority in the first place and so it should be on congress to act, and it’s up to them.
In a lot of ways, Trump kicked the can back over the fence and said, “Okay it’s up to you now, congress, you need to figure this out.”
Q: What do you think is in store for the future?
A: I think there is hope for congress to fix this and to pass something like a DREAM act. Enough republicans have signaled that they would like a fix. It’s sort of bad politics. It looks callous to take a ton of tax-paying, non-criminal, 20-year olds and send them back to their country of origin.
I think there is room for congress, certainly in the Senate that they could pass something. The House is a little tougher because it required bipartisan work because there is a clump of those far-right republicans who are never going to bend on this.
You would need republicans and democrats to work together on this. You have to raise the debt ceiling, otherwise it has bad economic impact, and so, in three months, they may try to tie some DREAMer/DACA-style act into the debt ceiling again and combine that. Right now, the debt ceiling got tied up with Harvey Relief, which was also something that was hard to vote against.
People did vote against it, but they do this because they know it will pass. They have that space to say no because they know it’s going to pass and get through and get done. Maybe in 3 months that will give democrats the chance to reintroduce this.