DACA: What happened, and what’s next – September 6, 2017

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Marchers supporting DACA in Minneapolis, 9/5/17

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Tuesday that the administration is rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. Two memos from DHS and USCIS clarified the Sessions statement ending DACA. These memos said that there will be a six-month delay, until March 5, 2018, “to give Congress time to act.”

DACA was established by President Obama in 2012 to give temporary protection from deportation and temporary work permits to “DREAMers” — young people who entered the United States before the age of 15. To be eligible, they had to have entered before 2007, and they had to be enrolled in or have graduated from school. Among other conditions, they had to fill out an extensive application, pay hundreds of dollars in fees, and have a clean criminal background check. Then they were given a two-year DACA permit, which did not lead to permanent residence or citizenship. After two years, pay another fee, and apply for a two-year renewal.

Many DREAMers, like Minnesotan Sonia Rodriguez, know no other home. She came here with her parents when she was six months old, and has two U.S. citizen siblings. She grew up here, graduated from high school and college, and works in a law office. Yet, without DACA, she will have no legal protection from deportation to a country she has never known.

While Sessions delivered the message, Trump made the decision to end DACA. Then he tried to back away from responsibility for that decision. The only consistent strain in Trump’s position on DACA has been his readiness to change what he says at the drop of a hat.  His varying positions include:

  • His campaign pledge to abolish DACA “from Day One.”
  • His post-inauguration statements of “love” for Dreamers, and reassurance that they should not worry.
  • His decision to rescind DACA, making 800,000 young people deportable in six months.
  • His statement hours later that he has “great love” for DACA recipients and hopes Congress will act.

The Trump back-and-forth on DACA is epitomized in two tweets today – the first before Sessions’ 10 a.m. announcement:

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and the second in the evening, after his attorney general rescinded DACA:

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Trump’s DACA decision puts Sonia Rodriguez and 800,000 young immigrants on a path to deportation. The only way to reverse course is for Congress to pass legislation giving them permanent protection. DREAM Act legislation with bi-partisan sponsorship has already been introduced in both the House and Senate.

Congress, of course, has had more than a decade to pass a DREAM Act and has failed every time. Now the stakes are higher. Will they actually pass a bi-partisan DREAM Act this time? And if they do, will President Trump sign it? He said repeatedly that it’s up to Congress to act, which implies that he would sign a bill, but his press secretary refused to say whether he would sign a bill.

At press conferences and rallies in Minnesota and across the country, DACA recipients and allies vowed to fight for a future. Pressuring Congress to pass a DREAM Act is the top priority. (Click here for Action Alert with phone numbers and message for your Congress members.)

Republicans have co-sponsored the DREAM Act – Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Dick Durbin (R-IL) in the House. Republican leaders in Congress say they want to pass the DREAM Act.

“After Sessions’s press conference on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Trump’s decision “unacceptable” and demanded passage of the DREAM Act. Even the party’s immigration hawks, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) say “we ought to take care of” the DREAMers and that they shouldn’t suffer because of the choices of their parents….

“There are people in limbo,” Speaker Ryan said on the radio station WCLO on Friday, according to the Huffington Post. “These are kids that know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home, and so I really do believe there needs to be a legislative solution, that’s one that we’re working on.”

Talk is cheap. Ryan, for example, hasn’t identified a specific bill that he supports, much less set a schedule for hearings and voting. Nor are Republicans the only problem. According to Vox, Minnesota Representative Colin Peterson, a Democrat, is expected to oppose the bill, though he hasn’t yet issued any statement on DACA. He is one of a handful of Democrats who may vote against the DREAM Act.

Decisions on DACA and the DREAM Act have an impact far beyond Washington politics. More than 800,000 young people across the country have DACA status. That includes more than 6,200 in Minnesota. Some 95 percent of them work or are in school. Minnesotans with DACA pay $15 million in state and local taxes each year.

Immigrants, including DREAMers, contribute to the economy of the state and nation. On Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported that Minnesota business and economic leaders say that the state needs more immigrants, in categories from farm labor to highly skilled doctors and engineers. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and many employers have difficulty filling jobs.

“An existing labor shortage has the 58-year-old Lunemann worried that his third-generation family business will not survive to a fourth generation. If a Senate bill backed by President Donald Trump cuts legal immigration 50 percent in 10 years, Lunemann said, “the pool of labor will disintegrate.” …

“Multiple analyses by state and private groups show that Minnesota will need a major influx of immigrants — not cuts — just to maintain its current economic growth rate and many more immigrants to increase it. “

Businesses, including Best Buy, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, General Motors, Google, Starbucks, Visa, and many others support the DREAMers. So do religious leaders, educators, and labor unions. Americans across the political spectrum show overwhelming support for DREAMers. National polls show 78 percent of voters support giving DREAMers a chance to stay permanently, including 73 percent of Trump voters.

Adding his voice to the chorus, President Barack Obama posted an extended Facebook message in response to the rescission of DACA. He characterized the action as wrong, self-defeating, cruel, and contrary to common sense and basic decency.

 “This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.

“But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?…

“Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.”

Additional reading:

What Do I Need to Know About the End of DACA? (Community Advisory) (Immigrant Legal Resource Center, 9/5/17) – advice for DACA recipients

Juventino Meza: ‘I’m ready for what’s to come.’ (ILCM, 9/4/17)

Minnesota braces for end to program for young immigrants (Star Tribune, 9/5/17)

Dayton rips Trump over ending ‘Dreamers’ protection (MPR, 9/5/17)

4 lies Jeff Sessions told to justify ending DACA (Vox, 9/5/17)

The 3 bills Congress could use to protect DACA recipients (Vox, 9/5/17)

Joe Biden: rescinding DACA is “cruel” and “inhumane” (Vox, 9/5/17)

Trump administration announces end of immigration protection program for ‘dreamers’ (Washington Post, 9/5/17)

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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