The Facts on DACA

Amid sensational narratives about President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, it’s important to take a step back and explain what the program is, how it was established, why it was rescinded, and what will likely happen next.

Established by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA allows unauthorized immigrants under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, who came to America younger than the age of sixteen and have been living here since 2007, to receive a renewable two year period of legal residency, deferred action from deportation, and eligibility for a work permit. In order to be eligible for DACA these teenagers and young adults must have a nearly spotless criminal record, have a high school diploma or be working towards one, or be in college, working a job, or serving in the US military.

This policy was created to grant legal residency to and ensure that these hopeful young people who grew up in the United States speaking English and pledging allegiance to the American flag would not be forced to return to their countries of origin of which they may have no memory nor speak the language. It also provides them with a legal way to work and pay taxes, get a driver’s license, and qualify for in-state tuition in some states while redirecting immigration enforcement resources away from these productive people to focus on criminal aliens who are here to do us harm. 

On September 5th, President Trump announced that he was going to rescind DACA, stating that congress has six months to do its job in producing legislation that will determine what to do with DACA recipients following the policy’s removal. The timing of this announcement was no doubt due to the pressure of ten state attorney generals and one governor threatening to sue the United States over the unconstitutionality of DACA.

The case would have been filed on September 5th if President Trump did not order DACA to stop renewing permits on October 5th, following a one-month grace period for renewal of recipients’ permits that were set to expire before March 5th. Whether DACA is unconstitutional can only be determined by the Supreme Court at this point. But if President Trump had failed to act and the court did decide that President Obama’s executive order was illegal, DACA and all of its benefits would most likely have been removed immediately, putting roughly 750,000 “DREAMers” in a very difficult position and at risk of deportation.

A federal court already ruled “DAPA” unconstitutional. This was an immigration policy Obama attempted to establish through executive order that was very similar to DACA but applied to the undocumented parents of American Citizens and “legal residents”. When this ruling was appealed and taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, it was affirmed by an equally divided court with four judges on either side, leaving the lower court’s order in place.

It doesn’t help DACA’s case that the newly appointed ninth Supreme Court Justice Judge Gorsuch’s “approach to immigration cases closely tracks the judiciary’s traditional deference to the legislative branch on immigration.” Even though most Americans feel the DREAMers should not be subjected to deportation, it is very likely that DACA recipients would have lost their legal residency status had the case against DACA gone to trial.

While Obama did what the Legislative branch could not to protect the DREAMers from the threat of deportation, just issuing an executive order unauthorized by statute because the policy did not pass through congress is a clear example of executive overreach and thus only provided a temporary solution. Trump’s decision to rescind DACA and return the responsibility of legislating to the legislative branch not only restores the system of checks and balances as it is laid out in the constitution, it grants DACA (or something very similar) the path to becoming permanent legal policy. With pressure from the media sensationalizing and politicizing this case, Trump has given congress a set time frame to get some kind of policy passed.

Based on Trump’s latest tweets about immigration, it is likely that any legislation providing protection for the DACA recipients would also require funding for immigration enforcement. It seems like President Trump may be using the DREAMers as a political bartering chip in congress to make his wall at the US and Mexico border a reality.

Considering  the majority of republican constituents who have voiced their opinion do not think DREAMers should lose their legal residency status, this time around representatives in congress from both political parties should be more willing to work together to produce a policy that would at least allow the benefits of DACA to continue but hopefully provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship. If our representatives in congress fail to pass some kind of legislation that allows the DREAMers to stay and reforms the ineffective immigration system that has not been significantly adjusted since 1986, it is possible that they will take a hit at the polls next November.


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