By Mikah Covelli
On September 5th, President Donald J. Trump announced that his administration would begin dismantling Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The rollback of such an important, heavily-relied upon program puts the 800,000 immigrants once protected by it at great risk, as they can no longer legally work in the country, and they face the looming threat of deportation.
The president’s choice to eliminate DACA was portrayed as one that was forced, particularly by nine Republican state attorneys who threatened to sue to destroy the program immediately if Trump did not act. The Trump administration’s gradual rollback of DACA was meant to appease these state attorneys while still providing DACA recipients time to recover from the sudden change.
Created by Barack Obama in 2012, after the DREAM Act sputtered out in Congress, DACA sought to protect unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. by granting them work permits and temporary grants of protection from deportation, those of which can be renewed every two years. To be eligible for DACA, one must have immigrated to the U.S. prior to the year 2007, been under the age of 16 when he/she arrived, and been younger than the age of 35 at the time of DACA’s creation. These young immigrants must also have a nearly spotless criminal record, and either be enrolled in or have a high school diploma/equivalent (e.g. a GED).
The benefits that DACA offers its recipients are numerous. Not only can these immigrants remain in the States without fear of immediate deportation, but DACA’s issuance of work permits allows them to establish themselves in careers and white-collar occupations. Immigrants with DACA can also obtain jobs better suited to the education they already possess.
Although Congress was originally given six months to devise a replacement for DACA- a time period after which the Department of Homeland Security will begin to deport those previously protected by the program- the White House has just released a list of demands that would have to be met before a deal to replace DACA can be established. These demands consist of multiple anti-immigration reforms, which include the construction of a wall on the Mexican-American border to the increase of the number of federal immigration judges that can send those who attempt to make illegal border crosses back to their home country.
A DACA-protected college student, Elias Rosenfield of Aventura, Florida, states, “I was very disappointed with the deal that was offered, if you can even call it a deal.” Rosenfield is not the only individual who feels frustrated with the demands the president has set forth in regards to the DACA compromise.
Armando Carrada, an immigrant to America at 7 years old, expresses, “What they [the Trump administration] are trying to do is help people like me...while criminalizing my mother… [She] will be at a higher risk of being deported so that I can be saved.”
As the White House debates the status of Obama’s immigration program, and determines whether or not legislation to protect unauthorized immigrants will be passed, many illegal aliens are already feeling the pressure of DACA’s rollback. New applications to the program have been refused, and individuals whose DACA protections are set to expire on March 6 or later will be considered unauthorized once again. Additionally, some immigrants may have to quit their full-time jobs in accordance with the law. Although those currently covered by the program can retain their work permits and deportation protections until they expire, their time in the States is limited; if Congress and Trump cannot broker a deal in regards to DACA, the deportation attack on these immigrants will begin, sending a slew of illegals to the countries of birth that they do not even remember.
Despite the wealth of benefits that DACA provides, and the fact that many of the immigrants that receive DACA are more “Americanized” than not, the Trump administration still seeks to bring forth an end to DACA, threatening the lives and security of thousands of young people residing in America.