The fate of up to 800,000 young people is now up to the U.S. Congress.
Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump announced, via one of his tweets, he intended to end DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Later, in another tweet, Trump seemed to soften his position a bit, but in the meantime U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced DACA is no longer law.
The President Barack Obama Administration created DACA in June 2012 partly because he and many others were frustrated by the lack of congressional action on immigration reform.
DACA protects young undocumented residents from impending deportation. To qualify, they must have been brought to the United States before the age of 16. They had to be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 (the date DACA began). They must have a high-school diploma or GED equivalency, still be in school or honorably discharged from the U.S. military. (There is a provision, unrelated to DACA, that allows some undocumented residents to serve in the U.S. Army.) Recipients are vetted and cannot have a criminal record.
DACA does not confer U.S. citizenship. It allows recipients to stay in the U.S. for two-year increments as long as they pay taxes and keep a clean record. Applications for DACA status must be renewed every two years with a $495 application fee.
DACA people are dubbed “Dreamers.” They work in every category: the service industry, mechanical engineering, computer technology, first-responders, medical personnel, teaching, construction – virtually every field. A good many of them have college degrees, including master’s and doctorates.
After Trump’s and Session’s announcements, a coast-to-coast outcry occurred from people outraged at the thought of leaving the Dreamers in the lurch. Protests were registered by churches, schools, high-tech companies, corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among many others. Polling indicates 80 percent of Americans oppose ending DACA.
Charges that “Dreamers” are taking away jobs from others have been refuted time and again in business studies. They are a huge net plus to the economy, not a drawback.
Then why end DACA? It’s because most Republicans and some Democrats thought Obama had over-extended his powers in creating DACA, intruding into immigration laws only the Congress should enact. That’s ironic because Congress has long refused to act. Since 2007, Congress has refused to pass – or even seriously consider – an immigration-reform policy, including a major bipartisan one drafted in 2007 by Sens. Ted Kennedy and John McCain.
To be sure, immigration reform is a maddeningly complex problem, but it’s a pressing problem because our borders must be secured, and stringent rules regarding immigration must be implemented. It’s long overdue, and it will require compromises within compromises.
However, with legislators verging on paralysis, so averse to any compromises, the chances of them approving comprehensive immigration reform are virtually zero within the next six months. Still, if they have any compassion whatsoever (or any guts), they will at least renew some form of DACA. Like efforts to repeal ObamaCare, if they want to fix DACA, to improve it, to replace it with something better – all well and fine. Call it anything you want, take credit for it. But get it done!
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.