A Brief Guide To DACA, DREAMers, And Why You Need To Pay Attention

 
This is why 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants could lose protection from deportation.

This is why 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants could lose protection from deportation.

What you need to know about DACA, DREAMers, and what’s happening with US immigration right now.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). This means if Congress doesn’t act within the six month window Trump’s allotted them, nearly 800,000 young people who came to the US as children (a.k.a “DREAMers”) will face deportation.

Here are just a few more things you need to know about DACA, DREAMers, and why all of this is happening right now.  

What is DACA?

DACA is an Obama-era immigration policy that protects DREAMers, the people who were brought to the US as children. DACA enables young, undocumented immigrants to exist openly and without fear—to obtain their driver’s license, enroll in college, and secure legal work. DACA doesn’t offer these people a path to lawful citizenship, but it does give them the chance to apply for deferment of deportation.

This deferral only lasts for two years, but eligible DREAMers can apply for renewal whenever their two years are up. Since it’s inception in 2012, nearly 800,000 young people have been approved for the program. Since last March, 240,700 people had applied for renewal in the 2017 fiscal year.

And speaking of, DACA eligibility is no joke. To be considered for the program, DACA applicants must have arrived in the US. before the age of 16 and lived here since July 15, 2007. Anyone who applied for DACA was required to provide evidence that they were living in the US during the specified times, plus proof of education, and confirmation of their identities.

These people also had to pass background checks, fingerprint checks, and other checks that focus on identifying biological features. They also had to pay a fee of $495.

Who are DREAMers?

DREAMers are young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, often by their parents. DREAMers attend American colleges, legally work American jobs, and pay American income taxes. According to DACA records, it appears the majority of DREAMers call Mexico their country of origin, but El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras follow closely behind.

The term “DREAMer” actually comes from the proposed DREAM Act, which hoped to offer DREAMers legal status if they could agree to either attend college or serve in the US military.

The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001, and the most updated version was shot down in the Senate back in 2010. But we’ll probably be hearing about it again soon.

Why is this happening right now?

Trump has been all over the place on DACA. He promised to end the program while on the campaign trail, but back in February, Trump reportedly said this: “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids. We're gonna deal with DACA with heart." Indeed.

Last June, 10 attorneys general issued Trump an ultimatum to rescind DACA by the September 5, or face legal challenges from them. Rather than resist the attorneys general, the Trump administration appears to be giving them what they want.

What happens next?

The Trump administration has given Congress six months to act before any currently protected individuals lose their right to live, study, and work freely in the United States. If Congress does nothing, nearly 300,000 people could be at risk for deportation in 2018, and more than 320,000 people would lose their status from January to August 2019.

What are people saying?

As upsetting as all of this is, it’s encouraging that everyone from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to Barack Obama, to Cher, have spoken out against rescinding DACA. Both Zuckerberg and Obama’s status updates are worth reading entirely, but this portion of Zuckerberg’s post really says it all:

“The young people covered by DACA are our friends and neighbors. They contribute to our communities and to the economy. I've gotten to know some DREAMers over the past few years, and I've always been impressed by their strength and sense of purpose. They don't deserve to live in fear.”

On Twitter, Cher went a step further than both Obama and Zuckerberg when she offered to turn her home into a sanctuary for at least one DREAMer.

 

The next six months are crucial for DREAMers, but it’s important not to lose hope right now.

Whether you choose to call your representatives, attend rallies, or support organizations like the Immigrant Defense Project, there are so many simple ways you can help.

Words: Elizabeth Enochs
Photos: Stocksy