DACA, Dreamers, Immigration and the American Dream
“Dreamers” and DACA have been in the news on a regular basis for the last few years. They have often been used as buzz-words and in fiery rhetoric on the news, in Congress, on the campaign trail . There is a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding what these words mean and who they affect. Unfortunately, in this polarized social media age and political climate, there is a mountain of misinformation out there regarding these topics.
“Dreamers” refers to individuals who arrived illegally to the United States as children. Many of these individuals arrived at the United States before the age of 5 and have known no home other than the United States. They are called “Dreamers” because since 2001, certain members of Congress have been trying to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would allow those who arrived illegally as children the chance of permanent legal residency. Unfortunately, the act has repeatedly failed to pass but the name has stuck.
In 2012 the Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allowed those who were brought to the United States illegally as children the temporary right to live, study and work in America, with the hope that a permanent solution would be passed through legislation. DACA does not provide recipients a path to citizenship, but it allowed them to legally drive, enroll in college and legally work without the fear of breaking immigration laws or being separated from their family and the life they have known since they were children. Unfortunately, no permanent solution has yet been created. The majority of these individuals are law-abiding people who have lived almost their entire lives in the US and just want to provide for their families.
To qualify for DACA, an individual must: (1) have been under 31 as of June 2012, (2) come to the US before the age of 16, (3) have continuously resided in the US since 2007, (4) be physically present in the US in June of 2012, (5) possess no lawful status, (6) currently in school, graduated from high school, achieved their GED or served in the military, (7) does not pose a threat to national security/public safety, and (8) have no conviction of a felony, significant misdemeanor or 3+ misdemeanors.
Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration announced that starting in September of 2017 new applications under DACA would no longer be accepted and that individuals currently receiving DACA would no longer be able to renew their DACA status after March of 2018. However, courts in several states almost immediately filed suit to keep DACA in place. In the first few cases, the courts held that the Trump administration had to keep allowing DACA recipients to renew. However, in late April the Federal District Court of Washington DC overruled the Trump administration’s efforts to end the popular immigration program, holding that the government has to accept new applications. That being said, the ruling will not take immediate effect, with the judge delaying the ruling for 90 days to allow the administration to make its case in a new memo justifying the end of the program.
Similar to the other rulings, Judge John Bates concluded that the wind-down of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” because the Department of Homeland Security failed to “adequately explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.” Judge Bates called the move “particularly egregious” given the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, protected under the program over its five years. Given how many people’s lives were built on the protections from DACA, Judge Bates said, “its barebones legal interpretation was doubly insufficient.
Judge Bates concluded that the argument that a Texas court would have likely immediately halted the program “was so implausible that it fails even under the deferential arbitrary and capricious standard.” Several weeks later, however, Texas did file a suit in federal court, arguing that DACA is illegal. The nation will have to wait and see what will happen with the Dreamers. To this day, no court has found DACA to be unconstitutional. If you or a loved one needs assistance with immigration, do not hesitate to call the Law Office of Gian-Franco Melendez, LLC.
Listen to the podcast below for a more detailed discussion between attorneys Gian-Franco Melendez and Matt Dolman.