The Trump administration’s wave of anti-immigration action now includes overturning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leaving the lives of about 800,000 young immigrants in limbo.
On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the exact date top Republican officials in 10 states threated to sue for the removal of DACA, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a staunch opponent of the policy, announced its demise. The Trump administration apparently disregarded 19 state attorneys general and Washington, D.C.’s attorney general’s plea to keep the program in place.
“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Sessions said at the Justice Department.
The DACA policy will end in March 2018, Sessions said. This gives Congress six months to decide the fate of the young immigrants. But Congress hasn’t been able to pass the DREAM Act in 16 years.
What Are the DREAM Act, DACA and DREAMers?
The bipartisan Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was first introduced in Congress in 2001, and several versions of the bill have repeatedly failed to pass. The act would grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants, often referred to as “DREAMers,” who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, had passed a background check, had graduated from an American high school or had obtained a GED and had lived continuously in the U.S. for at least five years. In 2010, Sessions penned a letter saying the act rewarded illegal behavior.
“[The DREAM Act] says that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here for five years, and you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship,” former President Barack Obama said in 2012.
Because Congress failed to pass the immigration legislation, the Obama administration introduced DACA, a Department of Homeland Security policy program, in 2012 to allow DREAMers to have their deportations delayed and obtain a temporary work permit.
Sessions’ DACA Myths
In his announcement on Tuesday, Sessions made several statements about DACA:
1) DACA recipients are provided legal status
DACA “essentially provided a legal status for recipients for a renewable two-year term, work authorization and other benefits, including participation in the social security program, to 800,000 mostly-adult illegal aliens.”
According to the nonprofit Define American, a DACA recipient cannot:
– receive any federal benefits, like social security, food stamps or college financial aid
– receive amnesty, a path to legalization or citizenship
What DREAMers receive is a temporary stay against their deportation for two years at a time. They can also apply for a driver’s license in some states, but it is marked to indicate it cannot be used for federal purposes like voting. And, DACA recipients are required to pay federal income taxes.
Undocumented immigrants born after June 15, 1981, who were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and have been in the country since June 15, 2007, are eligible for the program. They must be enrolled in or graduated from school and not have a felony conviction.
There’s a process, including a $495 fee, where applicants are vetted for criminal history or threat to national security. DACA lasts for two years, and each renewal is not guaranteed.
2) DACA is Unconstitutional
“The executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”
According to the American Immigration Council, Obama’s actions follow “a long line of presidents who relied on their executive branch authority to address immigration challenges.”
It is only Session’s interpretation of a court case that led him to say DACA is unconstitutional. On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court’s deadlock in Texas v. United States, a 4-4 split decision, resulted in the staying of a federal ruling against the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded actions on DACA. However, the Court has yet to make a ruling on whether DACA is unconstitutional.
The Trump administration eliminated the DAPA program on June 16.
3) DACA has caused terrible humanitarian consequences and prevented Americans from getting jobs
“The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
The cause of the surge in unaccompanied minors on the southern border has been debated. But, according to a study by San Diego State researchers, “DACA and the Surge in Unaccompanied Alien Children,” an increase in the apprehension of unaccompanied minors has been increasing since 2008.
“We find that DACA did not significantly impact those apprehensions,” researchers stated. “Rather, the 2008 Williams Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA), along with violence in the originating countries and economic conditions both in the origin countries and the United States, emerge as some of the key determinants of the recent surge in unaccompanied minors apprehended along the southwest U.S.-Mexico border.”
The TVPA was a provision added to ensure unaccompanied children from noncontiguous countries (countries other than Mexico or Canada) who were apprehended at the U.S. border have access to fundamental human rights, including legal representation and child-appropriate services.
In regard to jobs being “denied to hundreds and thousands of Americans” due to undocumented immigrants, Trump actually said in 2012 that isn’t the case.
In 2012 when Trump was doing a segment on DACA Fox and Friends he rejected the notion undocumented immigrants took American’s jobs pic.twitter.com/vDIkddq90X
— andrew kaczynski 🤔 (@KFILE) September 5, 2017
A 2015 study by the Urban Institute suggests that immigrants and native workers with low levels of education may be competing for different jobs:
“The top three occupations with the largest number of immigrants without high school diploma are maids and house cleaners, cooks, and miscellaneous agricultural workers.
“In contrast, the occupations with the largest number of native workers without high school degrees are cashiers, truck drivers, and janitors and building cleaners.”
DACA recipients contribute $1.2 billion annually in federal, state, and local tax revenue.
A Morning Consult and Politico survey taken in April actually found that 73 percent of Trump voters believe DREAMers should be able to remain in the U.S.
And, on Tuesday, Trump fluctuated on Twitter regarding the announcement to rescind DACA.
Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
I look forward to working w/ D’s + R’s in Congress to address immigration reform in a way that puts hardworking citizens of our country 1st.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
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
Regarding Sessions’ DACA announcement, Obama said in a statement Tuesday, “To target hopeful young strivers who grew up here is wrong, because they’ve done nothing wrong.”