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What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals? DACA Explained

Amid the roar of daily campus life, it’s hard to stay updated on the details of political happenings, especially during a presidency in which every day is a new slew of controversy. On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescinding of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While some of you may be well-versed in immigration law, those who aren’t may be hearing the word “DACA” for the umpteenth time this week, but still aren’t quite sure what it is or why it’s significant. So, let’s break it down.

What is DACA?

Basically, DACA is an immigration policy that was started by former President Obama in 2012 as a way to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors. Anyone who came to the U.S. under the age of 16 could apply, so long as they had no criminal record and were either in school or had a high school diploma (or GED). Applying to the program meant they could defer deportation for two years at a time (renewably) and gain a work permit. Today, there are approximately 800,000 people enrolled in the program.

What are “DREAMers”?

Those enrolled in DACA are often called “DREAMers”, referencing the failed “DREAM Act” put forth by Obama in 2010 that would have granted them legality.

What is going to change immediately?

President Trump announced that there would be a 6-month gap before implementation of the overturn, meaning that Congress has a short window to pass a law that would protect those in the program from facing deportation.

However, this does have an immediate effect on those who had yet to apply for DACA but wanted to, as the program stopped accepting new applications on the day of the announcement. For those who need to renew for another two years, the last day to do so will be October 5th, 2017.

What is going to change long-term?

While six months seems like a decent amount of time for Congress to find a replacement for DACA, immigration law has historically been difficult to pass. The support from Democrats and Republicans alike to protect the DREAMers is promising, though the clock is certainly ticking. 

Why did President Trump do this?

One reason is about as political as it gets: pressure. After building a campaign based on strict immigration law (among other things), Trump was disappointing a lot of Republicans who were wondering where his promises of a wall and deportations went. In fact, the announcement isn’t even that surprising, considering nine Republican State Attorneys General had just threatened to sue the government if Trump didn’t act.

The other reason is leverage. With the future of the DREAMers now in the hands of Congress, Trump can use this as leverage to get other immigration policies he wants passed. Democrats will be much more willing to agree to a wall if it means they can protect these 800,000 people.

Why does this matter?

While the support for finding a solution to protect the DREAMers is significant, it’s imperative to remember the individual repercussions of this announcement. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, many of whom came to the U.S. under the age of five and have no memory of living anywhere else, are now faced with the threat of being kicked out of the only country they’ve ever called home. Unsurprisingly, politics rule over lives, and partisan chess moves are made as people live in daily fear of being kicked out of the country that raised them.

What can I do?

If you wish to voice your concern over this rescinding, you can go to https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials to find out how you can contact elected officials.  


Images courtesy of: CNN and The NYIC

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