By: Liz King and Ally Valiente
On September 4, 2017, President Donald Trump announced to the nation that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Congress has six months to come up with an alternative plan, and in the meantime no new DACA applications will be approved. The decision is affecting the nearly 800,000 immigrants who are already enrolled in the program.
DACA is a policy for immigrants in the United States that allows selected individuals, who entered the country as minors and have remained here illegally, to receive a work permit, which can be renewed every two years.
To be eligible for the program, the recipient must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; had to have entered the United States prior to their sixteenth birthday; must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors; and must not pose a threat to national security or public safety. The people that depend on DACA are known as ‘Dreamers’.
Trump’s plan to scrap DACA will not affect the Dreamers yet, but it means individuals cannot renew their applications. As their legality papers and work and education permits expire, they won’t be able to extend them.
Dreamers is a term coined by former President Barack Obama which stands for ‘Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors,’ also known as the DREAM Act. It would have allowed those who came to the country illegally to become a legal resident. The DREAM Act was introduced in 2001 and has repeatedly failed to pass since then.
Millions of people across the nation were shocked and angry to hear that thousands of immigrants would lose their temporary status that protected them from deportation. In addition to immigrant advocates and Democratic leaders being opposed to this, Republican figures like John McCain and Paul Ryan did not want Trump to end DACA as well.
“These are young people who study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart and minds, and in every single way but one: paper,” Obama stated when he introduced the DREAM Act.
On June 15, 2012, Obama and his administration announced they would offer “deferred action” to immigrants which soon came to be known as DACA.
“Deferred action” refers to when the Department of Homeland Security has deemed an individual as a low priority for immigration enforcement and not deport them. It is not amnesty or immunity and does not extend to any family members of the person granted deferred action. It provides temporary relief from enforcement but it may be revoked if a person is charged with something like a misdemeanor.
Although DACA provides people with basics like a work permit, for many it is not just work they are looking for — it’s education.
California is home to tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants. The state has 72,300 Dreamers alone: 60,000 study in community colleges, 8,300 at Cal State and 4,000 at various UC’s. DACA helps students pursue a higher education as well as overcome any legal obstacles that could stop them from entering college.
Despite the end of the DACA program and what it means to student Dreamers, the leaders of education in California, including The University of California, California State University and the California Department of Education, expressed their continued support of the Dreamers in a letter they wrote to Congress.
“We will continue to stand with DACA participants, fight alongside them to keep the program alive, provide them with educational opportunities, and protect and support all current and future students who rely on the program,” they wrote.
A study conducted by Tom Wong, a professor at UC San Diego, found that 26 percent of the individuals within DACA have a child that is a US citizen. Because DACA was first introduced in 2012, many dreamers are 25 years old and married with kids. These people are worried about what will happen to them and their families with the recent decision ending DACA. Although Trump said the enforcement priorities would be recipients who are “criminals, involved in criminal activities, or are members of a gang,” most likely meaning these families will not be addressed first, many continue to be fearful.
Trump gave Congress until March 2018 to devise a new plan, but Congress, recognizing the impact on the hundreds of immigrants, hopes to achieve a decision for the proposal by the end of the year.