“They shouldn’t be very worried,” said Trump this past January on ABC news.
Now he is being quoted all over the internet, and I’ll just add to the pile.
As of 2016, DREAMers were, in fact, less worried, but that changed on January 20, 2017, when Trump was sworn in under the promise to get rid of Obama’s “unconstitutional executive orders,” one of them being DACA. Moreover, that statement became meaningless this September 5th, when his AG, Jeff Sessions, rescinded DACA.
According to VOX, a survey demonstrated that, as of 2015, 61% of DREAMers had found jobs in their preferred field and 78% were no longer scared of deportation three years after the program’s implementation.
However, things have changed rather quickly. A new president means new rules and new priorities. That’s why I thought it would be meaningful to have a timeline on the actions, or lack of them, taken with regards to DACA from the executive branch and from congress. This timeline is meant to provide context for understanding the events of this week. There are numerous articles explaining all the things you need to know about DACA, as well as those that try to list the things you can do to help. Those articles are incredibly valuable, and you should read them, but if you are trying to understand the roots of the mess we find ourselves in, you are in the right place.
Beware; the roots of this problem go way back. In the words of journalist Dara Lind from VOX, “this fight over DACA is old enough, that it could apply for DACA itself.”
A little historical context to preface the timeline:
The 1960s were a time when immigration was at the bottom of the list of priorities, and the government remained very open. Prior to 1965, there were no immigration quotas for migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the entry of people from these regions had never been never restricted. During that time, there was a program in place that dated back to 1942 and allowed for temporary migration for Mexican “guest-workers.” This program was called the Bracero Program and it allowed Mexican workers to cross the border to work in the U.S and go back to their families in Mexico after a day’s work. On 1964, that program was terminated, and caps on immigration for the Western Hemisphere were placed the following year. After 1965, immigration experienced a surge.
Sociologist, Douglas S Massey, a Princeton professor specialized in the sociology of immigration, argues that “the surge in immigration from Latin America occurred in spite of[,]rather than because of the new system.” Prior to 1965, 450,000 people from Mexico entered the U.S. each year on bracero permits, and there were 50, 000 Mexican legal residents. After the termination of the bracero program and the implementation of the caps (120,000 for permanent resident visas and 20,000 for the allowed number of legal residents from one country), the legal alternatives became scarce and people took action.
The flows of migration weren’t going to experience a major change because of the new policies, and in fact, they didn’t. People continued coming in, they just did it without the proper documentation and chose to stay and settle, rather than risk being apprehended and denied the possibility of reentry. Massey even argues that if the government had handled things differently, the results might have been varied drastically. He claims, “more might have continued to cross the border legally and for temporary stays, resulting in fewer permanent immigrants, less undocumented migration, and slower population growth.” Not to mention, less hard-line immigration politicians who found a culprit in the immigrant worker and bought into the Latino threat narrative.
That’s the end of the historical overview, so let’s dive right into to the timeline.
The cap on the number of entries from the Western Hemisphere set to 120,000.
# of illegal immigrants = 0
The cap on the number of residence visas for a single country set to 20,000 visas per year.
The cap on the overall number of visas set at 290,000 visas.
The cap on the overall number of visas reduced to 270,000
Reagan introduced IRCA, a path to legalization, which helped reduced illegal immigration by granting permanent residency to undocumented immigrants
Clinton and Bush governed during this time. In this decade, the government continued their efforts to secure the border and carried out the deportations. According to Statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, the total number of deportations under Clinton amounted to 12,290,905. The total amount of deportations for Bush’s first term aren’t readily available, but those of his second term are, and they amount to 10,328,850. The hardline immigration policies unintentionally resulted in an increase of undocumented immigrants, as immigrants decided to bring their families to the U.S. with them and settle here, instead of constantly risking apprehension at the border. They traded one risk for another.
# of legal immigrants from Latin American nations= 4.2M (44% of the entire flow)
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors) was proposed by senators, but it was stalled in Congress and ultimately failed to get the necessary votes. It was meant to provide immigrants brought to the U.S. as children with a path to citizenship. Granted, they had to be under 30, have no criminal record, and be enrolled in or have graduated from a university, or had served in the armed forces
The DREAM Act was introduced by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Senator Maria Cantwell, with 6 co-sponsors.
# of deportations: 200,000
The DREAM act, which was phased out because it felt victim to filibusters and major stalling, was revived in 2007 in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (or Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act) introduced by the 110th Congress. This bill was, like its name said, much more comprehensive because it aimed to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the US. It died with a passing cloture motion. And with it, the DREAM act.
*The Reform Act also included major increases in funding for border enforcement and restructures to visa criteria.
President Obama’s first term. His goal wasn’t to target low-priority immigrants, but the truth is federal agents were doing so either way. Hence, the impending DACAmentation.
# of deportations 370,000
# of legal immigrants from Latin American nations= 9.6M (80% of the entire flow)
55 members of the Senate voted to pass the DREAM Act. The bill passed the House and got a majority in the Senate but failed to get 60. It was blocked by Republicans. Multiple senators who had once supported the bill, both on the right and on the left, either refused to vote on it or voted against.
*This made sense because Republicans who were hard on immigration took control of the House of Representatives in the tea-party wave of 2010. There were 87 of them in the House by the end of 2010.
DACA was born. It was supposed to be temporary, hence the DEFERRED in Deferred Action. It was meant to postpone or defer, the deportation proceedings for two years with the possibility to be renewed and with multiple benefits (i.e. permit to get a driver's license, work permits, etc.) The program was intended to protect immigrants (780,000 of them) who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, through no fault of their own.
Senate passed a bill to make a broader reform on immigration, but it never got to the House. The bill was supposed to provide a path to citizenship that would take 13 years, but the estimate would be less for the DREAMers. It also included security components, as it aimed to increase funding for border enforcement and make the use of the e-verify system (an electronic system for employers to check the immigration status of their employees) compulsory with an implementation period of 5 years.
Texas AG filed a suit against DACA on the grounds of its unconstitutionality. Abbott claimed that the effects of Obama’s order would be most felt in southern states who continuously suffer the brunt of illegal immigration. He claimed DACA had encouraged illegal immigration, which was costly for the states and continued to force them to redirect funds towards controlling illegal immigration.
Trump removed privacy protections for DACA recipients with a provision in his executive order. Under the Obama administration, the information of DACA recipients was protected from ICE agents by privacy regulations. Now, it’s not anymore. Their information is now easily available to ICE agents.
a group of 10 Republican state officials wrote the administration a letter asking them to end DACA and threatening to file a federal lawsuit over the program’s constitutionality if the administration didn’t respond.
*If Trump hadn’t end DACA, and the states had gone through with the lawsuit, it would have been the duty of the head of the Department of Justice to defend it in court. That person is no other than Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump rescinds DACA.
*Now that the administration has chosen to end DACA, there are two possible courses of action. Either Congress passes a bill by the deadline, which is set to be March 5th, 2018 or it doesn’t. If it does, then the future of the DREAMers rests in the hands of the legislative branch. If on the contrary, the legislative branch fails to pass a bill for an immigration reform, then the stipulations outlined by AG Sessions will become the new law:
Those who have already applied to DACA will have their applications processed. As for those currently covered, two things could happen. If their DACAmentation is set to expire before March 5, 2018 (deadline for Congress to pass an immigration reform bill), they can apply for one last renewal until October 5th, 2017. If their DACAmentation expires on or after March 6th, 2018, they’ll become illegal aliens once again.
The question that remains is whether or not congress will pass a bill and finally deliver on the comprehensive immigration reform people have been waiting for decades. The other queries are, under what conditions will House majority Republicans agree to protect the DREAMers? Will future legal immigrants and present immigrants bear the brunt of their actions? What compromises is Congress willing to accept to save the DREAMers? Will we witness an of abuse of bargaining power? This was attempted in 2013, so who’s to say it won’t happen again, especially now that the pressure is higher and the threat more imminent. Tuesday’s actions have galvanized public opinion, and we all know what a movement of people can achieve. Hopefully, we will succeed and prove that the DREAMers are right to remain undocumented and unafraid.