What does the future
hold for DACA recipients?
by Miriam K. Crespo
What is happening to DACA?
On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it would be “sunsetting” DACA, putting an end to the program started by President Obama that has protected more than 800,000 people from removal since 2012. The program gave benefits to recipients (who I’ll call “Dreamers” from here on out) on a recurring two-year basis; while the program is ending, Dreamers will still be protected from removal until the expiration of their two-year periods, and people whose period was set to end between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, can apply for renewal if they request renewal by October 5, 2017.
DACA is an executive action program, meaning that it is run at the discretion of the United States president—executive action programs can change or go away altogether with a new president, which is the case with DACA. Stronger, more lasting immigration laws must pass through Congress, but meaningful immigration legislation has stalled in recent years. Only Congress can create laws that grant citizenship; DACA granted lawful presence in the country and work authorization to Dreamers.
Even though President Trump had expressed uncertainty about ending DACA once in office, the September 5 directive from the Department of Homeland Security made it clear where the administration stood.
What changed on September 5?
September 5, 2017 marked the last day that any new DACA applications were accepted. If you are eligible for DACA, but you have never applied, there is nothing you can do at this point.
Dreamers’ benefits will expire at the conclusion of their two-year periods, unless those periods were set to renew between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, in which case two-year renewals are available if USCIS receives the renewal application by October 5, 2017.
Important deadline: we recommend DREAMers mail their applications by October 3 to make sure they are received by the October 5 deadline.— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 27, 2017
What will happen when the two-year period ends?
Once Dreamers’ DACA benefits expire, they will lose their lawful presence in the country, along with their driver’s licenses, work authorizations, and federal student financial aid. They will be at risk for removal with no guarantee from the government of deferred action.
Will Congress act to protect the Dreamers?
There are several proposed pieces of legislation that Congress could take up to protect the Dreamers by enshrining the protections of DACA into law. The best-known bill is the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), a bill first introduced in 2001 and the namesake for the Dreamers. The DREAM Act has never successfully passed through Congress, but it still maintains fairly broad bipartisan support, and interest in it has been reinvigorated since President Trump announced the end of DACA.
Whether Congress will act is an enormous unknown. Immigration is a divisive issue, and though DACA and the Dreamers are seen positively by a majority of Americans, that doesn’t mean Congress could successfully propose a bill that would gain enough support in the Senate and House of Representatives, and from President Trump, who would ultimately have to sign the bill into law. As we’ve seen recently with the various proposed healthcare laws, Congress has a difficult time legislating even with a single party in control of the entire government. Other priorities—tax reform, healthcare, the budget, and aid for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria—could all draw attention away from a legislative solution for the Dreamers.
Wasn’t there a deal between Trump and the Democrats to help the Dreamers?
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
After the administration announced the end of DACA, the president indicated he wanted Congress to act to help the Dreamers who would eventually be losing DACA benefits. Shortly thereafter, following a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, it appeared that the president had reached an agreement to work with Democrats in Congress on a permanent replacement for DACA in exchange for increased border security. Pelosi and Schumer announced the deal publicly, saying, “We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.” But President Trump said that the sides had not reached an agreement, but that they were working on a solution together. Since that time, not much has been said about where that deal stands.
As we have seen with DACA, executive action programs do not give much long-term security as they can easily change at the whim of the president. A legislative solution—whether it be the DREAM Act or something else—would provide a much more certain and secure future for the more than 800,000 people who will soon lose DACA.
This helpful video, courtesy of Vox.com, explains DACA’s past, present, and potential future.
What should Dreamers do?
If you or somebody you know is a Dreamer whose DACA benefits are set to expire before March 6, 2018, you must apply for renewal immediately. The deadline is October 5.
Otherwise, let your representatives know that you support a legislative solution that will protect the Dreamers long-term.