DACA: What now?
Image Courtesy of The Atlantic

With the rescission of DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals), what happens now to the “dreamers”?

Your guess is as good as mine. But maybe Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi knows the fate awaiting the “dreamers.”

On Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump, through Attorney General Sessions, announced that the DACA program under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is being rescinded effective on the very same day. Since the implementation of DACA more than five years ago, June 15, 2012 to be exact, a lot of people still do not know about it or whom it benefits.

Immigrants, documented or not, want clarity if the grand announcement about DACA rescission will impact their status.

DACA was an administrative grant issued by the US government through then President Obama. It was intended to benefit some young people who were unaware that they entered this country illegally as children.  DACA was not for everyone.

In order to qualify, the applicant (a) should have been here when he/she was under 16 years of age; (b) should have been 31 years old on June 15, 2012; and (c) has gone to attend US school and earned a high school diploma or a GED certificate.

            DACA allowed those qualified to remain in the U.S. and to be not subjected to deportation for the time being.  For how long is deportation put on hold? For long as the DACA grant is in place.

The Obama administration believed that these children who are mostly US-educated should be considered assets of the nation, their illegal status notwithstanding   But only Congress, not the Office of the President, can grant  lawful immigration status with a pathway to citizenship.

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However, President Obama utilized a DHS policy already in existence to put on hold the removal of these children. This policy calls for the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” on low-priority cases (aliens who are not criminals).  DACA recipients, like beneficiaries of other “deferred action” cases, such as the “temporary protective status” (TPS) granted to defer removal of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, etc.) and Cuban parolees, can stay and work in the United States.

The work permit allowed them to obtain a social security number, be registered in the system properly and acquire a driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles.  A valid work permit is a prerequisite for employment and must be renewed.  DMV will not re-issue a valid driver’s license without a valid work permit.

The rescission memo issued on Sept. 5, 2017 directs that DACA applications and advance paroles (travel permit applications relative to DACA) filed on the same date (Sept. 5, 2017) and onwards will be rejected.

DACA applications and renewals filed prior to this date will be adjudicated, but its corresponding advance parole applications will be closed and the fees returned. Only advance parole/s already approved will be honored.

DACA grant already in place will be recognized only until its expiration date and will not be renewed.  Furthermore, renewal applications covering the period between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 with such applications accepted as of Oct. 05, 2017, can still be adjudicated.

A blanket statement contained in the memo emphasizes that the DHS “(W)ill continue to exercise its discretionary authority to terminate or deny deferred action at any time when immigration officials determine termination or denial of deferred action is appropriate.”

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This is a clear warning to those with issued DACA grants or advance parole to not cross that line nor defy any convention or custom because you will never know what’s coming.

Five years ago when the DACA was in its inception, even qualified recipients were wary.  And rightly so.  The application forms contain extensive information about family, all places of residence since day one in the U.S., among others.  They are definitely easier to find and deport compared to those illegals who should be removed from the United States but cannot be found.

But if the President’s tweet is sincere, the tide might turn in their favor and their existing DACA status is proof of their integrity. Continued advocacy for a congressional grant of a status that could provide a smooth transition to a path to U.S. citizenship is in order.

Are the majority of our representatives and senators in Congress listening?