The dust may have settled – or, more realistically, been washed away by climate-change-enhanced hurricanes pulling a Mr. Hyde on both Texas and Florida – from Trump’s announcement last week that his administration would end DACA with a six-month delay, but the future for 800,000 young people has never been cloudier.
The Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program was established in June of 2012 by the Obama administration. The program allows unauthorized immigrants who arrived in this country as minors (generally brought to the US as young children by their parents) to apply for a two-year deferral of deportation and also a work permit. Enrollees have to meet a whole slew of requirements, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Entered the US before their 16th birthday
- Be in school, have graduated high school, or served in the US military
- Currently be under the age of 31
- Not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three misdemeanors total
And, since there is a large portion of the country who seems to be very concerned about keeping the young people enrolled in DACA from accessing as much opportunity as possible, I will also note the things DACA does not do:
- Provide lawful status
- Establish a path to citizenship
- Make an enrollee eligible for federal welfare
- Make an enrollee eligible for student aid
(Please feel free to take a moment to tell your Fox-News-watching family members that no, the brown kids protected under DACA are not in any way receiving any kind of help from the federal government, because it would be just terrible to help bright students who stayed out of trouble as young people to go to college.)
So, if not any of the above, what are some of the actual benefits of DACA?
- Increased the wages and labor force participation of DACA-eligible immigrants
- Reduced the number of unauthorized immigrant households living in poverty
- Improved the mental health outcomes for DACA-eligible immigrants & their families
And the best part? DACA made the lives of millions of people better without negatively impacting the native-born US population. Nobody has been able to find evidence that it “takes away jobs” from US citizens, and indeed, most economists agree DACA is good for the US economy.
So why end DACA?
Like most things the Trump administration does, the ending of DACA seems to be mostly driven by the urge to undo everything the black guy did. Additionally, some of our favorite Southern conservative states, those which rely far more on government aid than the coastal liberal ones (this is one of my favorite facts, you guys), threatened to sue the administration over the legality of DACA.
The administration has also said it ended the executive-branch-driven DACA to pressure Congress to establish a permanent legislative solution. It’s only 800,000 lives they’re playing chicken with. No big.
Is a legislative solution possible?
Unclear! A piece of legislation that establishes a (long, complicated) path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US as children has been introduced in Congress multiple times since 2001. Called the DREAM – Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors – Act, it’s the root of the common term for DACA-eligible immigrants: DREAMers.
There are many members of Congress – those filled with an ugly hate that I simply cannot fathom, no matter how much I try to understand – who cheer the end of DACA. Rep Steve King (R-IA) is upset that it doesn’t throw nearly a million lives into chaos immediately instead of in six months, in which time many young people who have only known the US and often speak only English could have the chance to, you know, prepare for the worst.
There are (a little more) moderate Republicans, like Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) , who are in favor of a legislative solution. President Trump committed to Democratic leadership last week that he would sign the DREAM Act if it landed on his desk this fall.
In response to the President’s ending of DACA, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who introduced the first iteration of the DREAM Act in 2001, recommended the bill be brought up again immediately. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), called on Republican leadership to call it for a standalone up or down vote.
If the DREAM Act doesn’t come up as a standalone, it’s likely that Democrats will attach it as an amendment to a variety of bills this fall. Ultimately, it may end up as part of the bill to fund the government that needs to come up in December, setting up a Congressional showdown as 800,000 lives hang in the balance.