Dreamers Left In Limbo After Trump Decides To Ditch DACA

On Tuesday morning U.S. President Donald Trump announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); a promise he made in his campaign that always emphasized border hardening and reducing immigration. His brash promise has been put into action and is drastically altering the lives of 800 thousand people living in the U.S.

DACA was introduced as an executive policy under the Obama government in 2012. The legal shield provided amnesty for children who were illegally brought into the U.S. Recipients of the shield are affectionately called ‘Dreamers’ because preceding DACA was the failed DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), a bill that was put to congress in 2001 and dismissed in 2010. Dreamers were protected from deportation, as well as provided with work permits and education opportunities. To become an eligible recipient, one would have had to pass police and background checks, as well as meet certain conditions. The criteria included that they must have been under the age of 16 when they first arrived in the U.S., and have had to live there for seven consecutive years since 2007. Roughly 800 thousand people in the U.S. were DACA recipients, and the mean age of arrival was at the age of six. Most of these young individuals have known no other country and call the U.S. their home. After the Trump administration announced their decision to axe DACA, Obama defended Dreamers and urged Congress to preserve the policy. In an official statement, Obama said, “These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

The overwhelming majority of responses have been in support of keeping DACA; however, the Trump administration did have immense pressure from its supporters to keep their campaign promise. Conservative argued that Dreamers were in the U.S. illegally and that DACA should be considered “unconstitutional.” A letter signed by ten attorney generals threatened to add DACA to a lawsuit that is currently underway in the program, but was not terminated. Leading up to the president’s decision, Dreamers and DACA have received an outpour of support, since the decision to terminate the policy. Those backing DACA come from both sides, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the need for DACA to protect innocent Dreamers “who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home.” A poll by the Washington Post showed that 70% of voters were in favour of keeping DACA.

Numerous organisations have banded together to preserve the program, creating petitions and declaring they will defend DACA and Dreamers alike. The Chicago Sun Times promoted the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition which wrote an open letter to the president defending DACA and explaining the tragic losses that would occur if the program was ended. The coalition outlined that ending DACA would result in a loss of $2.3 billion in GDP in Illinois alone over the next 10 years, and an estimated loss of $460 billion from the national GDP. The letter, which now has over 400 signatures, has been signed by businesses and CEO’s including Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, AT&T, and Google. In it states that “Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.” Apple CEO Tim Cook stated on Twitter that 250 of his co-workers are affected by the ending of DACA but Apple will continue to support them.

So where to now?

Thousands of Dreamers are left in limbo; without a permanent replacement for DACA mass deportation is inevitable. The president has given Congress until March of next year to come up with an alternative, however, as of Tuesday, no new DACA applications will be accepted. Current recipients may continue to work and study until their approval expires, but only those whose permits expire before March of next year and submit their applications before October this year will be eligible for renewal. Those who have already applied for the program or for renewal will still have their applications processed with the possibility of becoming accepted recipients. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that there are nearly 201,000 Dreamers whose permits are set to expire this year. The six-month window given by the Trump administration to find an alternative may seem like a generous compromise, however, critics agree that the president is skirting responsibility onto an already overwhelmed Congress.

The legislative calendar is currently occupied by the pressing matters of raising ceiling debt, the renewal of federal funds, and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey by providing aid relief packages. The small time-frame and mounting public pressure will certainly give Congress a sense of urgency in prioritising the protection of DACA. The challenge will be finding a way to get DACA into legislation, as opposed to executive order, which would make the amnesty a law and give stability to current and future Dreamers. Republican representative, Carlos Curbelo, of Florida is confident that Congress has the time and motivation to achieve this. In a radio interview with NPR he said, “There is a willingness to find a compromise that includes stronger security and some compassion with these young people who never violated any law – when they came to this country, they were brought by their parents or by others – and are contributing to our country today.” Curbelo has proposed a legislation called the Recognizing America’s Children Act. This legislation intends to protect the current shield DACA is providing, as well as building on it by providing recipients with pathways to citizenship.

Swift legislative action and compassion is needed from Congress now in order to protect current and future generations. Many hoped that President Trump would act “with heart,” as he stated on Twitter, but were unsurprisingly met with disappointment on Tuesday morning. While the next six months will be confusing and life-altering for many Dreamers, there may be a silver lining. Passing the decision on to Congress has meant that DACA or a similar policy could become official US legislation. This is a unique opportunity to create a law that will protect young people for generations to come. There is no doubt that immigrants have played a huge role in the development and growth of the U.S. Dreamers may finally receive the respect and protection they deserve from a country they call home.