A Dreamers’ Nightmare: Future of DACA Unknown
September 22, 2017
Imagine you are a teenage illegal immigrant living in the United States. You go to your local high school, you hang out with your friends, maybe you play a couple of sports. You dream of going to college, of getting your driver’s license or a job after school, of being a regular teen. The only difference is that you entered this country illegally with your family when you were younger. You might not even remember where you came from or the language you spoke. The only identity you’ve ever known is American. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) gave you the opportunity to live out that identity without fear of deportation. But two weeks ago, on September 5th, your life and the lives of the 800,000 other people living under DACA were changed forever when the Trump administration announced that they may end the controversial program in six months.
DACA was put in place under Obama by an executive order in June of 2012. The program was meant to protect young illegal immigrants who weren’t born in the United States but grew up here and are entrenched in their communities. People in the program, called Dreamers, must be between the ages of 15 and 31 when they apply and need to have come to the United States before turning 16. In addition, Dreamers must either be in high school or already have a diploma/GED. The only exception is people who were honorably discharged from the armed forces. Immigrants convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor are banned from applying. While DACA doesn’t grant the same benefits as citizenship, it allows members to work and attend school legally. Dreamers can apply for citizenship without fearing deportation in the process. Those who qualify for the program must apply, and renew their DACA status every two years.
Under great pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Republican Party, and his supporter base, President Trump announced the start of the phase-out period for DACA. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will no longer accept any applications for DACA or its renewal, although applications submitted before September 5th will still be reviewed. In six months, if Congress hasn’t reached a decision regarding the future of the program, it will be terminated. Even without Trump’s decision, the program’s standing was precarious, as it could be proven unconstitutional in court, its legality is questionable, and multiple states have pending lawsuits over the issue. For Dreamers, this is the beginning of the end.
While some view Trump’s decision as a reflection of xenophobia or white supremacy, there are clearly other factors at play making this issue more complicated. In his statement on September 5th, Trump said that he “[does] not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents.” Later, on September 14th, Trump tweeted “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!….They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age.” His words reveal sympathy for the Dreamers and an attempt to understand their situations.
Trump ends his September 5th statement with the assertion that “Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and job seekers.” However, as President Obama put it in his facebook post focused on the issue, people under DACA are Americans too — Americans who believe in this country, its values, and the dream it has to offer.