Trump Rescinds U.S. DACA Program: Where Does This Leave 800,000 Dreamers?

Ashika Manu

In keeping with their hardline immigration stance, President Donald Trump’s administration officially announced on Tuesday that they plan to end Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to nationwide outcry and condemnation. The White House has opted for a six-month delay before DACA is terminated in order to allow for Congress and lawmakers to find a legislative solution for the nearly 800,000 Dreamers who will now be left in the lurch without a home or any sense of security.

DACA protects children who arrived in the U.S. as illegal immigrants from deportation and allows them to continue to live and study in the U.S. or apply for a work visa, which is renewed every two years. These Dreamers (given their name after the DREAM Act) typically consider the U.S. to be their home, often have little memory of their previous home or life, and in some cases cannot speak any language but English.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama used executive action to enact DACA in 2012, which accounts for much of the GOP criticism of the program, which was not passed by Congress. DACA was also enacted in an election year and many GOP members accused Obama of using the program as a means of ensuring the Latino vote, although the decision was met with enthusiasm from human rights groups, activists, and Dreamers. As such, following the Trump administration’s decision being announced, Obama released a statement on Facebook in which he called the “political decision… cruel” and “wrong.”

Meanwhile, Trump has opted to place the onus on Congress to enact more permanent legislation that would allow Dreamers to remain in the U.S. However, given previous failures to pass the DREAM Act (introduced by members of both parties) and the growing size of Congress’ current agenda, it seems unlikely that legislation that appeases Democrats, Republicans, and the Trump administration is likely to pass. Additionally, Trump has indicated that a bill concerning Dreamers should be part of more broader immigration reform, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Moreover, DACA is set to be phased out as of March 5th, 2018. Thus, Dreamers whose applications are set to expire within the six-month period prior are able to apply for renewals before October 5th, 2017, meaning that some Dreamers will be able to continue living and working in the U.S. until early 2020. However, applications submitted before September 5th, 2017 will be assessed on an individual basis and no new applications for the program will now be accepted. As well, if Congress does not pass legislation before the six-month period has ended, some Dreamers will be facing the threat of deportation as of March 6th, 2018.

Furthermore, Homeland Security has stated that they will not immediately begin deporting Dreamers as they are considered to be a low priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Nevertheless, Dreamers still fear that the wealth of personal information they supplied to the government (with the assurance that this information would not be used to deport them) will eventually be used against them.

Dreamers account for only a fraction of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., but they are a vital part of their schools, communities, and businesses. According to a survey by the Center for American Progress, approximately 90% of Dreamers in the DACA program are employed, paying both state and federal taxes and making payments into the U.S. social security program. Approximately 72% of Dreamers are also currently enrolled in higher education institutions. With that said, the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has estimated that the U.S. stands to lose up to $280 billion in tax revenue in the next decade as a result of rescinding DACA.

The decision has sparked outrage across the U.S. as protests erupted in Washington, New York, Denver, and Phoenix with further protests planned across the country throughout the week. High school and college students have also walked out of classes in protest.

Additionally, at least 400 businesses wrote an open letter to President Trump last month asking him to reconsider his stance on DACA, with tech companies from Silicon Valley, including the CEOs and founders of Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google, IBM, and Airbnb, who all publicly denounced the decision and vowed to fight for Dreamers to remain in the U.S.

The states of California, New York, and Washington have also vowed to protect Dreamers and threatened legal action against the Trump administration. These states are part of a group of 20 state attorneys general that wrote to Trump in July urging him to maintain DACA and stated they “stand in support of the effort to defend DACA by all appropriate means.”

As such, the decision to rescind DACA and upend the lives of 800,000 Dreamers who came to the U.S. as children, came forward about their undocumented immigrant status, and trusted the government, seems to have less to do with concerns about presidential overreach and the protection of the American people. Instead, this decision seems to have more to do with satisfying Trump’s voter base and hardline immigration reform advocates and avoiding a legal battle with GOP states. Therefore, it appears that the decision only serves to put more pressure on a divided Congress to enact suitable legislation; something which has not proven possible since the first incarnation of the DREAM Act was introduced to the House in 2001. If nothing else, ending DACA will only put more strain and fear in the lives of 800,000 Dreamers who call America home.