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3 Things You Need to Know About DACA

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This is an editorial article. All opinions represented in this article are that of the writer, and do not represent the interests of Her Campus Media or HCSMU.

If you’ve been able to weave your way through the maze of this week’s utterly catastrophic headlines, then you might have noticed the Justice Department’s announcement that they are rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. If you aren’t sure what that entails, let me break it down for you.

In simple terms, DACA is an Obama-era immigration policy established via executive order that allows people brought to the United States as undocumented children, Dreamers, to apply to defer legal action like deportation. According to CNN, the requirements to apply for deferment are as follows: “To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the US before age 16 and have lived there since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012.” Applicants have to reapply every two years, and if they’re approved, they are able to legally work, go to school.

Picture via the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights  

Now the Trump Administration is trying to slowly wind down DACA. Instead of outright “ending” the program, they are rescinding it over a six-month window while simultaneously giving Congress a chance to protect it. According to CNN, “Work permits issued under DACA will be honored until they expire. New DACA applications already received by Tuesday will be processed. Anyone whose status is set to expire by March 5, 2018, has a month to apply for a new two-year permit, and those renewal applications will be processed.”

That being said, here are few things that you ought to know about DACA.

1. It’s not a free ride.

DACA has been mistaken by its opponents as a free ride for illegal immigrants. This could not be the further from the truth. First of all, DACA applicants have to a pay a $495 fee the first time they apply and every time they renew their application. Also, they often have to pay lawyer fees since the application is complex and requires legal expertise. In order to be approved, Dreamers must have a clean criminal record- no felonies or significant misdemeanors. In addition to this, all Dreamers either have a high school diploma/GED or an honorable discharge from the military. Meanwhile, those with DACA work permits pay income tax, while being ineligible for certain benefits of legal citizenship and residency (like federal student aid.) Also, DACA is not a “path to citizenship” and does not give applicants an advantage in the naturalization process. 

2. The U.S is home to most Dreamers. 

Deporting Dreamers has wildly different consequences when compared to deporting an undocumented immigrant who came the United States as an adult. According to a study conducted by Tom Wong at the University of San Diego for the Center for American Progress, the median age of Dreamers when they first came to the United States was 6 years old.They grew up in the United States with our customs, ideals and culture. Many Dreamers did not even know that they were undocumented until they did activities that required social security numbers, like applying for driver’s licenses. For many Dreamers, deportation would involve forcibly being sent to a country that they do not know at all. Eliminating DACA would be an exercise in cruelty, not a means of border protection or an action of economic necessity.

3. It’s not about jobs. It’s about Trump.

 

Photo via Pixabay

This leads me to my third point. The White House will try to tell you this issue is about the economy. In his formal announcement of the program’s recension, Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that this change was because DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those jobs to go to illegal aliens.” He’s lying to you. According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, there’s no evidence at all to Session’s claims. They even found that DACA was a source of economic stimulus. They report, “…DACA has positively benefited the U.S. labor market. The vast majority of DACA recipients are employed, 87 percent, and on average DACA recipients saw their wages increase by 42 percent after receiving an EAD. Those gains—and the higher tax revenue to the federal and state and local governments that have accompanied it—are now in jeopardy.” 

Meanwhile, Trump has been unclear about where he stands on the issue of DACA, arguing that Americans have been “victimized” by the program while also urging Congress on Twitter to act to defend it. While his words may seem super confusing, there is an explanation for Trump’s indecisiveness: his xenophobic base of support. While most voters, including Republicans, are in favor of allowing Dreamers to stay in the United States, Trump’s far right voter bloc was in favor of ending the policy altogether. With Steve Bannon’s exit from the White House, Trump is under new pressure to prove his allegiance to his Breitbart-reading, alt-right fan club. Rescinding DACA was Trump’s version of a compromise. Instead of ending the program, he created a six-month window for Congress to scramble to act. There are two possible scenarios, and Trump wins either way.

  • If Congress is successful in protecting Dreamers, Trump will publicly take the credit for codifying the rights of undocumented young people. He’ll say “I put the policy is Congress’ hands so they could make something more permanent.” When questioned in private by alt-right donors about his failure to end DACA, he’ll blame Congress and say he did what he could.
  • If Congress is unsuccessful in passing permanent DACA legislation, Trump will publicly blame them for legal action taken against Dreamers. He’ll pretend to be empathetic but will take no real action to help those hurt by the end of DACA. Meanwhile, he’ll gain the credit and votes from the alt-right for ending the program.

 Trump is risking the wellbeing of hardworking young people in order to secure his xenophobic voter bloc. The recension of DACA is a political ploy- don’t let the Trump administration convince you that it’s anything else.

 

Grace is a sophmore at SMU. Besides Her Campus, she's a member of the UHP, Sigma Phi Lambda, and the SMU Debate Team. 
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