News Fast Five: DACA
A "No Border Wall" sign takes place at the front of the pro-DACA protest on Sept. 5.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be phased out within six months.
DACA provides around 800,000 undocumented immigrants the ability to apply for two-year cycles of temporary protection from deportation and access to work permits. The requirements are that they came to the United States before the age of 16, have no criminal record, have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 and are either in high school or have their GEDs.
After the announcement, University of Arizona students and locals hosted a press conference as well as a march on campus and downtown Tucson to voice their support for the UA’s 46 DACA students and Arizona’s roughly 30,000 DACA residents.
Considering the immense news coverage the DACA program and its recipients will receive in the coming weeks, here are five the things you need to know about the purpose and history of the program:
DACA was always a temporary solution
DACA was meant as a temporary stop-gap measure, inspired by student activists, in the absence of congressional action.
After Congress again failed to pass the bipartisan Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act in 2010, “the Obama administration looked for ways to solve this huge humanitarian and social crisis through executive action,” said Lynn Marcus, Co-Director of the UA’s James E. Rogers College of Law Immigration Law Center.
In June 2012, Obama issued an executive order borrowing many aspects of the DREAM Act, which failed to pass, in part, due to Senator John McCain withholding his support because of border security issues.
The program allowed qualified undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for two-year deferred action on their immigration status, protecting them from deportation and allowing them to access work permits under the Reagan era Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
DACA was legal because it was limited
To justify phasing out the DACA program, the Trump Administration called the Obama era executive order unilateral and unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court did hear oral arguments, but “the ruling didn’t address the constitutionality of President Obama’s initiatives,” Marcus said.
The split 4-4 decision upheld an injunction of a 2014 proposed DACA expansion.
The expansion, sometimes called DAPA, would have given deferred action to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who met certain criteria and could have impacted half of the undocumented population in the U.S.—around 5 million at the time.
Twenty-six states filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and succeeded in stopping the order from going into effect in a Texas federal court and the Fifth-Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds of a procedural error.
The original DACA program was never challenged in court, Marcus said, and is likely constitutional or at least acceptable because its limited nature falls under the president’s authority to set immigration enforcement priorities.
Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise under duress
The Trump Administration announcement comes in the wake of 10 states threatening to challenge the original DACA executive order in federal court, Marcus said.
“Trump campaigned that he would end DACA on day one,” Marcus said.
Yet more recently, he vowed to show great heart, and told DREAMers not to worry.
In response to the DACA announcement, 15 states have filed a lawsuit alleging Trump violated the due process rights of DREAMers and will damage the economies of these states.
In Arizona, Attorney General Mark Brnovich filled a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents which, in part, argues providing nearly-in-state tuition rates for DACA students is illegal.
Without these rates, many DACA students would be forced to give up an education, Marcus said.
With lawsuits on all sides, Trump has forced the decision into the hands of Congress.
Congress has six months to act
According to Trump, Congress has six months to act and pass legislation to make DACA permanent and reform parts of the immigration system.
If they fail to do so, he will let DACA end, although there is speculation he may revisit his decision.
“The federal government has a responsibility to defend and secure our borders, but we must do so in a way that upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation,” said Arizona Senator John McCain. “I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to devise and pass comprehensive immigration reform, which will include the DREAM Act.”
Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva agreed in part with his colleague.
“DREAMers are young individuals who have sought higher education, careers, served in our military and rooted themselves in our country,” he said. “They contribute to our economy, our social fabric and represent the best of our values. To now force them to return to a state of fear is not only immoral, but it runs afoul of our immigrant heritage as a nation.”
Yet, for reform to pass, Marcus worries concessions may be made to further militarize the border and increase deportations.
DACA invests in real people
“These young adults, who have known no other country, are for all intents and purposes, except for a piece of paper, Americans,” Marcus said.
DACA provides the opportunity for DREAMers to pursue education and contribute to the only country they have ever known.
“There is a lot of sympathy for DREAMers, even though immigrants, especially undocumented ones, have been vilified by the president and by the right wing,” Marcus said.
In fact, Sessions falsely argued that DACA recipients took jobs away from Americans, encouraged illegal immigration and that its repeal would benefit taxpayers, she said.
Yet, new immigrants entering the country cannot benefit from any of DACA’s policies and DACA recipients are barred from collecting social security, food stamps and other welfare programs, but pay into these programs through taxes.
While 91 percent of DACA recipients are either employed or in school, the argument they are taking away jobs from Americans contrasts a report from immigration think tank FWD.us, that estimates they generated over $400 billion in GDP.
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