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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an American immigration program that authorized some people who moved and stayed in the country illegally as minor to remain in the state (Wong, 2016). These individuals would receive a two-year renewable period of deferred action from being deported and were eligible for a work permit (Lind, 2018). As of the year 2017, an estimate of over 800,000 individuals had been enrolled in the program developed by DACA. This policy was announced in June 2012 by the Obama administration and was revoked in September 2017 by the Trump administration. The DACA policy was created through an executive order rather than legislation (Batalova, 2013). The system has been prevalent in the last several months because Congress cannot agree on the right measures to implement for it to be successful.
This paper is going to evaluate the DACA policy and explain further how it was established and the how it is perceived by various individuals in the country.
Historical and constitutional background
The DACA policy was initially introduced in 2001, by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch as the Dream Act. This act aimed at developing a process that would enable immigrants to apply for conditional residency (McGreevy, 2017). They expected that it would eventually result in permanent residency depending on the age at which the individual entered the United States. For people to have conditional residency, it would require that all applicants to prove that they came into the country before turning sixteen and have been living in the U.S for five years continuously(Batalova, 2013). The bill offered a promising future for the immigrants but it failed to overcome the bipartisan filibuster in Senate hence was unable to get the needed votes.
It was placed into consideration again in 2011, but it did not get the required votes in the Senate (Batalova, 2013). In 2013, the bill passed the senate, but the house did not have the opportunity to vote on it. Instead, Obama decided to sign an executive order. His actions have been credited to the failure of Congress to pass the bill (McGreevy, 2017). Initially, President Obama announced the policy on June 15th, 2012, with a speech at the Rose Garden in the White House. This day was selected as the 30th anniversary of Plyer v Doe, a decision made by the Supreme Court preventing public schools from charging illegal immigrant children tuition (Lind, 2018). A memorandum from the Secretary of Homeland Security named “Exercising Prosecution Discretion concerning Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children,” officially established the policy.
This policy allowed specific immigrants protection from deportation and access to work permits for a two-year period. This privilege was renewable upon good behavior. Applicants had to be 31 and below on June 15, 2012, and they must have entered the U.S before turning 16 and must have lived in the country since 2007 (Lind, 2018). More than 1.7 million people were estimated to be eligible for the program at that time. After its implementation, in 2014 Obama announced that he had intentions of expanding DACA to enable more people to be acceptable. This move was highly criticized, and several Republican leaders sued in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Texas demanding the court prevent the expansion of DACA and DAPA (Wong, 2016). Republican leaders saw the DACA program as an abuse of executive power by President Obama.
Checks and balances
For any bill to become a law it needs to go through all the check and balances of the three branches of the government. Because of this aspect, the legality of DACA and its proposed expansion were significantly challenged (Batalova, 2013). The DACA policy was implemented after Obama signed an executive order and it did not going through Congress. Many Republicans saw this as unconstitutional and an abuse of the executive power by the president (McGreevy, 2017). In June 2013, almost all the Republican and three Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to defund DACA. This move was made because some members of Congress felt that the president did not have the authority to disregard the immigration law nor did he have the power to force a bill into existence (Wong, 2016). However, in practice, since DACA is mostly funded by its application fees rather than congressional appropriations, Congress cannot defund it.
In November 2014, Obama presented some changes to the immigration policy. These changes would increase the number of illegal immigrants and would increase the renewable deferral period (Wong, 2016). This expansion was estimated to increase the number of eligible people by around three hundred and thirty thousand. These changes were highly criticized and in December 2014, twenty-six states, including Texas, sued the Obama administration and asked for the expansion of DACA to be prevented. This case is known as the Texas v. United States case. In February 2015, and an injunction was issued to block the expansion of the policy from taking place while the case proceeds (Wong, 2016). After going through the judiciary system, the court ruled in favor of preventing DACA expansion.
Public policy, elections, and media
During the 2016 campaign season, Donald Trump often told his supporters that he would repeal DACA on the first day of his presidency. He often argued that the rise in crime in the United States was due to the rise in the number of illegal immigrants who were being allowed to say in the country (Lind, 2018). After trump’s victory in the elections, on February 14, 2017, a report was done by CNN on the detention of Daniel Ramirez Medina who was an immigrant. This case raised the questions on what it could mean for the many Dreamers who were allowed to stay in the country under DACA. On March 7 of the same year, another DACA recipient Daniela Vargas was detained by ICE (Lind, 2018). These two cases speculations on whether immigrants who speak against the government’s policies should be afraid of retaliation. Both individuals were however released.
The United States Department of Homeland announced on June 16, 2017, that it had the intentions of repealing Obama’s executive order that leads to the expansion of DACA. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on September 5, 2017, that the DACA program is being repealed (Wong, 2016). He claimed that more people who are eligible for DACA are lawbreakers and have significantly affected the wages and employment chances of native-born Americans (McGreevy, 2017). Implementation of the repeal has been suspended for six months and any documents that expire within this period may be renewed. Once the six months end, approximately 800,000 people who qualify to be enrolled in the program will be eligible for deportation.
Voting and election process
The voting and election process has a significant impact on the DACA policy. The election of Obama in 2008 resulted in its implementation and the election of Trump, as president of the United States, led to the end of this program. He claimed that this was done to come up with a merit-based system that would allow only the preferred individuals into the country (McGreevy, 2017). Many immigrants have been left uncertain since the administration has not come up with a new immigration law after the policy was ended. DACA protected hundreds of thousands of young unauthorized individual from being deported, and it legally allowed them to work since 2012. The program was meant to give immigrants a chance to build their lives in the United States. However, they are now a considerable uncertainty on the fate of these people (Lind, 2018). Both Republican and the Democrats have the responsibility of coming up with a new policy and the future of many illegal immigrants lie in the hands of this elected officials.
The topic on unauthorized immigrants has been in discussion for several years now. A solution was however thought to have been found by President Obama when he signed the executive order on DACA. This program would aim at providing illegal immigrants protection from being deported and would offer them work permit. The plan seemed very promising but was highly criticized and did not give a lasting solution to the immigration problem. After the election of President Trump, the fate of this individual is not known since the DACA policy was ended and no new plan has been instituted by the government. The administration needs to come up with a strategy that will keep out the criminals while also protecting the good immigrants and the American people.
- Batalova, J., Hooker, S., Capps, R., Bachemeir, J. D., & Cox, E. (2013). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the one-year Mark. Migration Policy Institue.
- Lind, D. (2018). 9 things you need to know to understand DACA and the DREAMers. Vox. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/31/16226934/daca-trump-dreamers-immigration
- McGreevy, P. (2017). California sues Trump administration over plan to end DACA. latimes.com. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-california-sues-trump-administration-1505150334-htmlstory.html
- Wong, T. K., & García, A. S. (2016). Does where I live affect whether I apply? The contextual determinants of applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. International Migration Review, 50(3), 699-727.