The DACA Decision: New Uncertainty For Vulnerable Students And Their Families

The DACA Decision: New Uncertainty for Vulnerable Students and their Families
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I can’t say that I was shocked. I knew it was expected. I hoped it would not happen, but I have just watched the U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, say, in a press briefing, that, “I’m here today to announce that the program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded.”

Sessions described the program as being “unconstitutional” and vulnerable to “imminent litigation” which could not be easily defended by the Department of Justice. (learn more about legal experts weighing in here and here)

Speaking for less than 15 minutes, he offered no further details on what we can expect in terms of this decision’s effect on current DACA recipients or those considering application or even what might happen to them in the months and years that follow.

I later learned that the administration ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin an orderly and lawful winding down of the program, providing a time period for congress to act on an immigration policy.

Here's what the Trump administration will do, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):

  • The DHS has issued a memo formally rescinding DACA and starting what the administration calls an "orderly wind down."
  • The government will not process any new applications or requests for DACA protection.
  • People currently protected will not be affected before March 5, 2018, "so Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions."
  • This clearly means that after March 5, 2018 recipients may be vulnerable to deportation unless Congress takes action to protect them.

But more importantly, since its inception in 2012, DACA has worked. It has proven itself to improve the lives of scores of young people, the majority of whom are students, and has kept them productive and proud.

It has benefited families, individuals, and the greater community.

Polls show that the majority of Americans not only support DACA, but also think these undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements. They also support debate over true immigration reform now.

DACA recipients and those eligible did not enter the country as autonomous adults. They were brought here by their parents who sought a better and safer life for them.

DACA afforded them protected status for a compassionate reason.

It is inconsistent with compassion for us to deport them, either alone or along with their parents and families who brought them here. They have created lives here. They have acted on their own behalf to establish a recognized and proud presence here just by applying for DACA protection. And this was done at a risk of deportation to themselves and their families; they have committed no crimes, they have jobs, careers, and/or are going school or college. They are 800,000 young people who want to continue to make a contribution to America.

We have a very small window of opportunity to act. First, we must work locally to do all we can, in working with community organizations, school systems, colleges, and employers, to inform and be informed about the options DACA recipients and their families have for seeking advice, assistance, and legal protection.

On a broader level, we must express our feelings about DACA and make those feelings known to our senators, our congressional representatives, and to the White House.

And finally, we should educate one another about the BRIDGE (acronym for Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) and DREAM (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Acts and other possible legislative actions in congress and express our support for fair and compassionate legislation.

The BRIDGE Act is a bipartisan House and Senate bill to provide provisional protected presence to qualified individuals who came to the United States as children (S128; HR 496). It would allow people who are eligible for or who have received work authorization and temporary relief from deportation through DACA to continue living in the U.S. with permission from the federal government.

The DREAM Act is also a bipartisan bill that would provide a direct road to U.S. citizenship for people who are either undocumented, have DACA or temporary protected status (TPS), and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program.

Before the administration decision was announced, Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, urged Congress to consider either the DREAM Act or the BRIDGE Act in a statement on the reported decision. “Taking action to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, even with a reported six-month delay, will throw the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people and their families into turmoil.”

The decision was announced yesterday and it has immediately thrown their lives into turmoil.

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