IS THE DREAM REALLY OVER?
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? – Langston Hughes (1951)
Why was DACA initiated?
In June 2012, President Obama founded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to allow qualified illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit, obtain a driver’s license and the ability to go to school – all in pursuit of the proverbial American Dream. The key phrase was “deferred action” given that DACA did not pave a way for dreamers to become US citizens or even legal permanent residents in spite of paying income taxes — something immigrant rights advocates have criticized as it effectively left dreamers long term immigration status up in the air. Approximately 800,000 such young people were enrolled in the program by 2017.
WHO ARE DREAMERS?
Dreamers are children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their families or legally with their parents but subsequently overstayed their visas. Due to proximity with USA, the vast majority are from Latin American origin with Asians making up the just about the rest. The Dreamers are a highly organized group of young people who argue that, after being raised and educated here in the U.S., they are Americans who only lack legal recognition. Those already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. Yielding to pressure from 10 republican state attorneys who threatened to sue, the Trump Administration formally rescinded DACA on September 5th, 2017 however, implementation was delayed for six months to give Congress time to come up with a solution for the population that was previously eligible for DACA.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE DREAMERS?
So here’s the begging question: Is the American dream really over for dreamers? Not really but it depends on your current immigration status. If you are a brand new DACA applicant to be, unfortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) closed the door on accepting new applications on September 5th which exposes you to deportation proceedings. On the other hand, if you are current DACA enrollee and your work permit expires before March 5, 2018, you can apply for a two-year renewal, so long as you get your application in before the Oct. 5th deadline (approximately one month away). That gives you hope until August, 2019. But what about DACA enrollees whose work permits expire after March 5, 2018? Unless Congress acts quickly, their immigration status becomes untenable in 2018 – potentially exposing them to deportation hearings. Officially, the government has asserted that they will not terminate “previously issued deferred action or revoke Employment Authorization Documents”, however be aware that USCIS personnel can exercise their discretion to terminate or revoke previously granted status on a case by case basis notwithstanding for any reason for instance due to the presence of a criminal record or the applicant is gang related (around 1,500 have already had their deferral status cancelled for those reasons).
WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE?
President Trump is phasing out the DACA program and has given congress 6 months to sort it out otherwise he will use his executive power to solve the matter. Dreamers are hoping that ongoing public pressure will spur Congress to act favorably towards a solution that protects the 800,000 dreamers some of whom as it stands, technically, could be at risk for deportations as early as 2018. Relying on this Congress to find a solution puts Dreamers in a precarious position given that they haven’t passed one single piece of major legislation since Trump moved into the White House in January. Another development that could buy dreamers time is the 15 states and Washington, D.C., to date, that have sued the Trump administration over the decision to end DACA. That strategy mostly worked against the Trump Administration during the travel ban fiasco so Dreamers will similarly hope for favorable court rulings that will stay or terminate Trump’s executive order and buy sufficient time for Congress to pass legislation that will protect Dreamers from deportation. In any event, given the fluid nature of developments on DACA, in the interim, if you are a current DACA enrollee and you have not applied for an extension, time is of the essence as you only have one month until October 5th to take advantage of a two year extension to your ‘dream‘.
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