Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was first announced by the secretary of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012, marking a major victory for hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people in the U.S. For the first time, people were able to come out of the shadows to get work permits, attend college and contribute to the economy of the country they all call home. Five years later, DACA is at stake because of a lawsuit against the federal government led by Texas. DACA is an executive order that was signed by President Obama in August 2012, meaning President Trump has the authority and capability to rescind it. Here’s how DACA has gone from a new proposal to a program at risk, and how some politicians are trying to save it.
August 15 is the Day Of Action to #DefendDACA.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) August 15, 2017
The Tom K. Wong, United We Dream, National Immigration Law Center, and Center for American Progress National Survey spoke with DACA beneficiaries, also called Dreamers, about their educational and employment opportunities since getting on the program. Results from the study show that 95 percent of people who are on DACA are either working or in school. Furthermore, the survey shows that DACA beneficiaries are contributing to the U.S. economy in several different industries, including the nonprofit sector, educational and health services and professional and business services.
DACA beneficiaries are using the program to go to school, get jobs, get better pay and contribute to the U.S. economy in positive ways.
— Lizzette (@LizzyA116) August 15, 2017
“DACA has given me the ability to work. It has given me the ability to actually fulfill my dreams. It’s so basic,” Emmanuel Ramos Barajas, a mitú video producer, says. “It just allows you to work. Without being able to work, I can’t do any of the things that I want to do. I think a lot of people take that for granted, the right to work. Without that right to work, I can’t do any of things that I want to do that I’ve prepared my whole life to do even if I went to university and I graduated with my bachelor’s.”
Despite studies showing that the program is working to benefit the U.S. economy, 10 states are threatening to sue the federal government if the program isn’t rescinded by President Trump.
— Carmen Cornejo (@DesertCarmen) August 15, 2017
Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia all joined in a lawsuit aimed at eliminating the proposed program Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). When Trump became president, DAPA, which was introduced in 2014, was rescinded. At that time, Trump and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly promised that DACA would remain in place. The original lawsuit was solely focused on DAPA, but these states have threatened Trump with a lawsuit tailored to go after DACA if he doesn’t rescind the program.
If the case against DACA makes it to the courts, officials in immigration have already said it might not withstand a legal battle.
In July, Sec. Kelly met with members of Congress alert them that DACA would likely fail a court case questioning its constitutionality. Congressman Luis Gutierrez informed the press and activists that DACA is in real jeopardy.
Dreamers lead the fight for DACA. Now that it is at risk, some beneficiaries are calling people to join together to renew the fight to protect what they helped create.
“I feel like, at this time, the best thing to do is to stick together and protect our community,” Ramos Barajas says. “It’s a very scary time, honestly, because even though I don’t think about it every day, in the back of my head I know that I can wake up tomorrow to the news that DACA has been overturned and I won’t have a job. Everything that I have worked for my entire life will be on hold indefinitely until I figure out what to do. It wouldn’t be fair because this is my home. This is where I’ve made my life; where all of my friends and family live.”
Julio Salgado is an artist and a Dreamer. He uses his art as a form of activism to bring attention to the fight for DACA and the lives of undocumented youth, particularly queer youth.
“I think taking DACA away is a way to show that this administration is not joking when they promised anti-immigrant policies,” artist Julio Salgado says.
“DACA is one of the few things that undocumented organizers won aside from all the deportations they stopped,” Salgado says. “If DACA goes away, it sure will be an inconvenience. But I’m a hustler. I am an immigrant. I have survival skills. Don’t let those sci-fi movies fool you into thinking that only white people survive horrific life circumstances.”
In response to the threat, four senators introduced a bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 15, 2017
The Dream Act, introduced by Republicans Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, would allow for undocumented immigrants and DACA beneficiaries to become citizens. It would be a long process but the bill, which has garnered bipartisan support, effectively creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
It wouldn’t be an immediate jump to citizenship because there are certain criteria people would have to meet.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, this is the proposed process:
- Current DACA beneficiaries would be granted a conditional permanent residency. People who are on Temporary Protected Status and people with final orders of removal would have a chance to apply for the same status.
- After eight years as a conditional permanent resident, people can apply to become lawful permanent residents if they go to college, have worked for a certain amount of time or served in the U.S. military.
- After five years as a lawful permanent resident, people would then be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Ramos Barajas believes The Dream Act is a good step forward if it gets passed.
“I don’t think it’s a solution across the board because the immigration system is completely broken so that needs a complete overhaul but this, let’s call it a Band-Aid, would be so helpful because it would allow millions of young people to enter into the workforce,” Ramos Barajas says. “It’s not just people doing every day stuff, it would also be people motivated to work in law and in medicine. These things are all beneficial because if you have lawyers and politician who understand the issues because they have lived through them, for them it’s going to be much more personal and they are going to go out and try to make these things happen.”
“We cannot allow the lives of these young Americans to be threatened, and the chants of white supremacists to thrive,” Julissa Arce, an immigration activist, wrote in an op-ed for mitú.
— Julissa Arce (@julissaarce) August 15, 2017
“DACA has changed the lives of many of these young people; in the same way Texas changed my life in 2001,” Arce wrote.