Trump Quickly Backs Off on Offer of Protection to DREAMERs
Since well before he was elected, President Trump has left no questions about his positions on immigration. With this in mind, an announcement out of the Department of Homeland Security last week–stating that “the memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect”–came as more than a bit of a shock.
The DACA refers to a 2012 policy directive out of the Obama administration. The directive essentially offered a watered down version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act, to those who would have qualified under the act had it been passed when it was introduced back in 2001. The policy provided a new avenue for those who would have qualified under the DREAM Act to apply for citizenship to instead apply for a stay on deportation and a potential work visa. Those who applied under the policy are called DREAMERs due to the similarities between the DACA and the DREAM Act. As of today, well over 700,000 people have benefitted from the DACA.
However, with the Trump administration taking over all those people had to once again fear that they would be targeted for deportation. To make things worse, there was a strong potential that the very information they had provided to potentially receive aid under the DACA would be used against them in deportation proceedings. Thus, this recent announcement was such cause for celebration that many were left in disbelief considering the approach the Trump administration had taken to immigration so far.
When comes to those who might apply for the benefits of the DACA, uncertainty is almost worse than outright denial. This sort of waffling leaves DREAMERs in a perilous position. Do you apply for the benefits of the DACA, even knowing that the very information you use to apply may be used against you. Or do you simply continue on in the extremely stressful and risky situation of living life as an illegal immigrant.
Let’s take a look at exactly how the DACA–if its protections still exist–works as well as the information that is required to apply for the protections of the DACA
How Does the DACA Work?
In order to receive the benefits of the DACA, the applicant must fulfill a laundry list of requirements:
- (1) They must be under 36 years old (as of today);
- (2) they must have been under 16 years old when they came to this country,
- (3) they must have lived in the U.S. non-stop from June 15, 2007 to today;
- (4) they must have entered the country illegally or had their legal status expire before June 15, 2012;
- (5) they can’t have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor (domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, and the like), any three misdemeanors;
- (6) have graduated from high school, be in school, received a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces; and
- (7) not be considered a threat U.S. national security.
This is obviously a pretty hefty list just to qualify but it covers an enormous number of people and offers a huge change in lifestyle for those people in terms of both personal security and securing work. However, proving this list requires somebody to provide an enormous amount of information about themselves as evidence. Proof of identity, where you went to school, where you live, when and how you got here, etc. So complicated is compiling the necessary evidence that it generally requires hiring a lawyer to make sure you got it all. The prospect of going through all the time and expense of making a DACA application, only to have that stack evidence turned against you is not only a stressful proposition for DREAMERs, it also outright undermines any attempt by the government to reach out to people here illegally.
Uncertainty Under the Law Leaves DREAMERs With a Lose-Lose
Mr. Hoffman describes the desire of the Trump administration to treat DREAMERs with “compassion.” They certainly deserve compassion, many DREAMERs did not even know they entered the country illegally. Often they have attended schools in the U.S. all their life and have no ties whatsoever to anything outside this country.
However, flip flopping on the DACA like this is the opposite of compassion. Under Trump’s own executive orders, privacy protections have been stripped away from illegal immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents need only ask to receive the information provided under the DACA and use it to arrest and deport would-be DREAMERs.
This leaves these people in a situation where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Why would somebody in such a situation ever trust the government’s offer of amnesty if it can be so easily turned around on them. Would you? Allowing illegal immigrants to transition to legal status allows for taxation, safety, and more. We need these sort of programs to achieve this. However, when they are undercut as thoroughly as they have been by the Trump administration, it’s hard to see them gaining much traction in the future short of an actual act of Congress.