Major news sources are reporting that Republicans are divided over DACA. Some are saying it could affect Republican’s control over Congress. Many feel that DACA mostly affects little children, but in reality the median age for those in DACA program is 25. Do you support Trump’s decision to do away with DACA?
The most consequential decision President Donald Trump made on immigration in his first year in office wasn’t about the wall, or who’s going to pay for it, or anything else he talked about incessantly on the campaign trail.
It was his decision to announce, on September 5, that his administration would be winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — a program he didn’t mention outright, that many people didn’t know about and even fewer understood.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has protected nearly 800,000 young adult unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allowed them to work legally since 2012. The immigrants protected through DACA grew up in the US; people might not assume they are unauthorized immigrants, and they might not have even known it themselves until they were teenagers. The program was supposed to give them a chance to build a life here.
Now, DACA is on the chopping block. Trump, under pressure to make a decision about its future before September 5 (the day a group of Republican state officials were set to sue over its constitutionality), has decided that no one new will be protected under the program — and that those currently covered will start to lose their protection and work permits on March 6, 2018.
The prospect of DACA’s demise is throwing the program into sharp relief: calling attention to the “DREAMers” who’ve been able to benefit from it, and the ways in which their lives have been changed over the past five years.
Here’s a guide to the program, the people it protects, and what could happen in the near future.
1) DACA is a program to protect DREAMers — unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children
In the 1990s to mid-2000s, the US started building up enforcement on the US/Mexico border, with a huge unintended consequence: Many unauthorized immigrants avoided repeated risky border crossings by settling in the US with their families. (Previously, unauthorized immigrants had mostly been working-age men who crossed back and forth to the US for work while their families stayed in their home countries.)
Around the same time, changes to US law made it nearly impossible for an immigrant to get legal status if they’d lived in the country illegally. So the children who crossed illegally into the US with their parents were growing up in a country where they could never become legal residents or citizens.
These children became known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation meant to give them a path to citizenship first introduced in 2001. But with that legislation stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama in 2012 created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. While it didn’t give them a path to citizenship, DACA offered DREAMers a temporary grant of protection from deportation and a permit to work legally in the US. The protections last two years, after which immigrants can apply to renew for them.
Not all DREAMers, though, became DACA recipients. To apply for DACA, immigrants have to have come to the US before 2007, and have been 15 or younger when they arrived and younger than 31 when DACA was created in June 2012. They had to have a nearly spotless criminal record and be enrolled in high school or have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Perhaps most importantly, they have to apply. It’s estimated that about 1.3 million people would be eligible for DACA, but right now, about 800,000 people actually have it.