I was born in the United States and I am affected by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). While the status does not apply to me as an individual, my life (and probably yours!) is directly affected by it being in place. While I may not know if an individual is protected under by DACA just by looking at them, it affects people I work with and other students around me. It affects children I have worked with and it affects me in my very home. Without DACA protections, my life would be directly affected and change drastically.
And that's why I'm deeply concerned about what's happening.
If you're not familiar with DACA (or if you've only heard the misconceptions), it's important to understand what it is and what it provides.
DACA began after it was announced by former president Barack Obama in June 2012 and began accepting applications in later that year in August. DACA provides a "deferral" of deportation for people who meet very specific qualifications. These qualifications include, but are not limited to:
1. You must have been under the age of 16 when you arrived in the United States
2. You have lived in the United States continuously since 2007
3. You are a student at the time of application or have at least a high school diploma or GED OR you are a military/serviceman, and
4. You must not have any felony, misdemeanor, or DUI convictions.
There is an incredible amount of paperwork involved and the non-refundable fee is $495 or more, which must be paid upon initial application and then once every two years subsequently. Additionally, DACA recipients must reapply every two years. If they are convicted of a crime, their application would not be renewable and they lose status. If approved, a DACA recipient receives a work permit, which allows them to work here legally and pay taxes. Some states also allow DACA recipients to attend college and obtain driver's licenses.
When I hear complaints about "illegal immigrants," often it is that they are working illegally, not paying taxes, or driving without a license and causing accidents. DACA eliminates these issues as it provides people with no other recourse a way work legally, pay taxes, and obtain a driver's license and insurance.
What it doesn't give, however, is any permanent legal residence and it does not provide a path to citizenship. It's a limbo state until U.S. lawmakers either create a path to citizenship or end the program and go back to deporting these individuals.
So... what's going on?
In September 2017, Jeff Sessions, on behalf of President Trump announced that the administration was ending the program. They gave no real plan for what would happen after the phase-out. Federal court judges in Washington, D.C., New York, and California issued a preliminary injunction to block the president's action which has been upheld for the past two years. While no one can submit a new application, individuals have been able to renew their status if they are still in good standing.
In 2018, Trump requested a final decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but they rejected his cancellation of the program saying it was "arbitrary and capricious." In June 2019, the Supreme Court announced they would take on the case and that a decision would be reached sometime between January to June 2020. In November 2019, deliberations and protests from both sides of the spectrum begun.
The future of DACA is uncertain. But here is what is certain.
You may not know it, but there are DACA recipients living alongside you. In August 2018, USCIS estimated there were 699,350 active DACA recipients residing in the United States representing dozens of countries, from Canada to Finland, from Mexico to Germany, from Taiwan to Ireland. These are hardworking people who have undergone lots of scrutiny and paperwork to qualify. They contribute to the economy by paying taxes and buying or renting cars and homes. By providing them a way to work legally, they are also able to stimulate the economy through other purchases and supporting their communities. DACA recipients are studying and achieving their dreams of attending institutions of higher educations. They are business owners, restaurant managers, nurses, and teachers. And they deserve to be able to continue working towards their dreams. I stand with DACA and the millions of people affected by it.