THE ACT PROTECTING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS HAS AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
By Olivia Vermane, Staff Writer
With less than a month remaining before the federal government ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), a sense of urgency has come over recipients and lawmakers alike as the deadline looms.
President Donald Trump announced in September that the federal government would be ending DACA, the Obama-era program that protected young undocumented immigrants from deportation throughout the country.
Known as “DREAMers,” these hundreds of thousands of young immigrants came to the country as minors and have lived nearly their entire lives on American soil. Under the protection of DACA, they were able to renew their status every two years in order to stay in the country. Although this program does not provide a pathway for citizenship, it does allow recipients to get work permits.
People currently protected under DACA will no longer be protected after the program expires next month. Instead, DREAMers will face the risk of deportation.
“As people begin to lose DACA, their work permits, and drivers licenses will also expire, preventing them from having access to basic necessities,” said Mayra Leiva, internal president of Mason DREAMers. “For those who are students, losing in-state tuition is also a possibility if the state does not have legislation to protect that right (such as Virginia).”
In a statement delivered on Sept. 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that DACA was an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
In order to give congress time to act, Trump allowed for a six month delay in terminating the program. According to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, the president is not expected to extend his decision past Mar. 5. As the deadline looms closer, this has raised the urgency for lawmakers to come up with a permanent solution.
Trump has proposed legislation that provides a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers and other immigrants. This includes not only the 690,000 people currently protected by DACA, but allows for an additional 1.1 million undocumented immigrants that were not previously part of the program.
However, this seemingly generous proposal comes with Trump’s own demands. These include $25 billion in federal funding for the construction of a southern border wall, as well as significant limitations on legal immigration.
This “take-it-or-leave-it’ proposal puts Democrats in a bind, and according to Michael D. Shear of the New York Times, because “members of both parties said that legislation would have a better chance of passing if it focused on legal status for DACA recipients without a dramatic crackdown on illegal immigrants or new restrictions on legal immigration for extended family members.”
This solution is unacceptable to many constituents, including Mason DREAMers.
“It further allows our communities to be profiled and targeted,” said Leiva. “A wall affects communities living by the border…. Passing legislation that protects few at the expense of the majority of our community is cruel and unjust.”
The past few weeks have kept congress busy as lawmakers raced to pass a budget on time to avoid a second government shutdown of 2018. Trump gave his final approval and signature to the bill on Feb. 9, after a late filibuster by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that caused a temporary shutdown through the night.
Lawmakers came to an agreement for a two-year budget that would fund the government and avert another shutdown, but protections for DREAMers were left out of the bill. Legislators now have less than a month remaining to pass DACA legislation before the program expires.
“Personally, it has felt like an attack on people of color by targeting those who are most vulnerable,” said Leiva. “DACA recipients deserve to be here and deserve to live a life of dignity and respect, and so do their parents and family members. As an organization, we are finding strength in our community and continuing to advocate and educate about this issue.”
Photo By Allie Thompson