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Trump kills DACA, striking devastating blow to DREAMers

Wmc Features Daca Protest Zach Gibson Getty Images 090517
DACA Protest (Zach Gibson, Getty Images)

The Trump administration officially announced yesterday that DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) would be rescinded, pending a six-month delay. For those with DACA status (known as DREAMers), the announcement was a devastating blow, and many face an uncertain future. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement, though rumors of the decision trickled out throughout the weekend, prompting defenses of the program from both Democrats and Republicans. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that they supported bipartisan legislation that would protect DREAMers. Though such legislation may pass in the Senate, it’s questionable whether it would in the House or if Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would support it. 

In 2012, President Barack Obama introduced DACA, a temporary status for people brought into the country illegally as children so they could live, work, and study in the United States. The executive order was announced after the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, a bipartisan push for immigration reform, passed in the House but was stalled in the Senate.

In order to receive DACA, applicants had to meet a number of qualifications like being a student, graduate, or military service member. DACA recipients must have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012 and arrived in the United States before turning 16. Additionally, prospective participants were vetted for a criminal background.

DACA was not blanket amnesty. It simply granted enrollees a protected legal status that kept them from being deported for two years (with a chance to renew). With DACA, these individuals were allowed access to driver’s licenses and work permits and could enroll in college.

Currently there are about 800,000 DREAMers around the country. Most DREAMers arrived in the United States before the age of six, and 91 percent are employed. The Center for American Progress has estimated that removing DACA would cost over $400 billion to the national GDP over a decade.

Many notable business and technology leaders called out the Trump administration for the DACA reversal, including Tim Cook (Apple) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). The music sharing service Spotify even created a playlist curated by immigrant musicians.

Perhaps the biggest voice expressing disapproval was former President Obama. In a Facebook post, he wrote, “It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today.” 

Some Republicans, like Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), have proposed keeping DACA in exchange for stricter immigration quotas and funding for a border wall. It is unlikely that any Democrat would agree to such a compromise. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) affirmed her commitment by DREAMers and said that the party would “redouble our efforts to protect our nation’s families from the Trump Administration’s mass deportation agenda.”

Until Congress passes any reform, all DACA recipients face a potentially distressing outlook. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that those with an expiring DACA status between now and March 5, 2018 can apply for a two-year renewal by October 5, 2018. Current DACA status and work authorization will be recognized for anyone until it expires.

For many organizers and activists, this is just the beginning of a prolonged fight ahead. Demonstrations took place in Colorado, New Mexico, and California, and in front of the White House, with members of the “resistance” pledging to stand with the DREAMers. Leaders from the labor movement, including the AFL-CIO, marched from the White House to the Justice Department on Wednesday with a message that DACA was here to stay. 

"Congressional Republicans are now on the hook for DREAMers’ fate," said Mayra Macias, political director of the Latino Victory Project. "If Congress fails to act immediately to shield them from deportation, we will spend Trump’s six-month window fighting to recruit, train, and elect representatives that will do the right thing by families and pass comprehensive immigration reform.” 

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