The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has shielded almost 800,000 people. Known as Dreamers, the program has saved them from deportation since 2012. For the Dreamers, the future of the program and their status in the United States is in the hands of the Supreme Court.
The status of the DACA program has hung in limbo since late 2017, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate the program and Congress has remained unable to come to a conclusion regarding it.
President Barack Obama created the DACA program through an executive order in 2012. The program granted protection from deportation to undocumented individuals who were under the age of 31 as of June 2012 and those who came to the United States before the age of 16.
To have been considered or remain eligible for DACA, individuals are required to reapply every two years and cannot have any felony convictions.
The program has offered Dreamers work authorization, social security numbers and driver’s licenses. However, the program is not a pathway to citizenship and recipients are still not considered to have lawful status.
In a press release from 2012, former President Barack Obama said the program was a temporary stopgap and wasn’t meant to be longstanding.
The program currently isn’t accepting new applicants, but those who are already within the program can continue to renew their applications until further notice.
Critics have called the program unconstitutional and an overreach of executive authority.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led a coalition of 10 other states who, in June 2017, threatened to sue the government if DACA was not rescinded by September 2017.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program would be rescinded and the Department of Homeland Security would begin to wind down the program in September 2017.
Since the announcement, a “fix” to DACA has still not been made in Congress as deadlines have passed and federal courts have blocked the attempt to end the program, including the Supreme Court.
“If you qualify still and nothing like criminal issues has come up between when you were initially granted DACA and your renewal, then you’re good to renew,” said Hillary Walsh, an attorney at New Frontier Immigration Law.
Arizona joined 12 other states to ask the Supreme Court to overturn DACA in late August because the program has strained their finances. Paxton claimed that the state of Texas has spent $250 million a year for those services provided to the recipients.
A study by the American Action Forum found that the government spends $7.4 billion at the federal, state, and local levels annually for the recipients.
However, the study estimated that current recipients contribute about $3.4 billion annually and that removal of these individuals would reduce overall GDP by nearly $42 billion.
The Supreme Court began to hear oral arguments on Nov. 12 on three cases to determine if the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was lawful.
Should the program be lawfully terminated, it would leave nearly 700,000 people without a shield from deportation.
“If we take away DACA, we are destroying families for generations and generations,” Walsh said.
Without that protection, Walsh said for those who have relied on the program for anything as small as being pulled over for a broken tail light could lead to a deportation.
“Someone’s gonna ask me for my proof of papers and I’m not going to have them,” Walsh said. “Rather than going to class the next day or work the next day as I have done since I was a small child, and swearing allegiance to this country first thing in the morning, I’m gonna be in Eloy detention center wearing tan prison garb about to be deported.”
Arizona is home to 26,100 DACA recipients, which accounts for about 4% of the total DACA recipient population nationally.
Incoming Arizona State University student and DACA recipient Osman Erives said that the uncertainty of the program’s future leaves him in a constant state of stress and anxiety.
“You have to work 100 times harder to stay motivated,” Erives said. “It’s always difficult when you have it on your mind that the program can be removed at any point.”
On the same day as the hearings, Living United For Change (LUCHA), Arizona Dream Act Coalition and Undocumented Students for Education Equity rallied in front of Paxton’s office in Texas.
“I marched for DACA because I notice a lot of people in crisis,” said Ivonne Dominguez, a Phoenix College student who attended the rally. “I’m close with a lot of my friends that have DACA and if they could have been, they would have been here.”
Annette Alvarez-Valencia also attended the rally. She said her brother is another DACA student who plans to transfer to ASU.
“Honestly I’m worried for DACA,” Alvarez-Valencia said. “My brother came here when he was about three months old from Mexico. I’m scared for him. Everything I do, I do it for him.”
For people like Erives, the United States is the only home they know.
“We’ve been here our whole lives, we’ve worked our whole lives, and we don’t know anywhere else,” said Erives.
A decision regarding the future of DACA is anticipated to be made by June 2020.
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