What is DACA and what does it have to do with me?
Though you’ve probably heard, but possibly didn’t know what to make of it, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or the Dream Act faces the lurking threat of being cancelled. This cancelation would affect almost 700,000 recipients all over the country who were brought into the states as children and currently hold an “undocumented” status. Notably, these people are not considered illegal, but undocumented. Due to a list of factors that are largely a result of the complicated landscape that the United States immigration system can be, these recipients face the possibility of immigration enforcement/removal, a.k.a deportation. Through the efforts of the Obama-administration in 2012, this act made a way for qualified undocumented immigrants to live and work legally. Here are some important facts and prevalent misconceptions about the program:
1. The program affects families from all over the world.
One misconception about the program is that it only benefits Mexican immigrants, yet about 20% of the recipients are from countries all over Africa, the Caribbean, Central and Latin America, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and even Canada. Why should this even matter to me, you say? You probably know someone, or know somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody that is affected in some way by this threat. It could be your teacher, local policewoman neighbor, or even a friend. It is important to not see this through the greater immigration rhetoric from the current administration, but as a separate issue that can not be remedied by a wall.
2. The possibility of President Trump’s impeachment may not move the needle.
Impeachment of the current president may not provide any hope for DREAMers. Although it was the current administration that moved to end the program, it is closely tied to the immigration issues that the Republican party has placed on their agenda. An impeachment would still leave the Republican party in the White House. Additionally, opinion polls do show that the party is divided on what is the right or wrong thing to do for these childhood arrivals.
3. Many applied for this program but only some were able to qualify.
Although there are roughly 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, about 600,000 of them are Black, only a little over 800,000 were initially qualified to participate in the effort, and of that about 36,000 of them are of African decent. When the program was announced, there was a rise in the demand for immigration lawyers and legal professionals to help individuals make their case. Yes, they had to copiously prove that they could qualify with documents, appropriate paper work, and even a $495 dollar fee to receive their permit and every time they had to renew as it expires every 2 years. Yes, they had to pay it each time. This means that at some point, certain individuals were disqualified from the program for not being able to pay for the renewal of their work permits and lawyer fees, additional legal trouble they may have found themselves in, or maybe if they had left the country., for DACA does not allow recipients to re-enter the United States. If an individual leaves, they would not be able to come back legally.
4. The reason why a solid decision has not been made quite yet may not be what you think.
This program’s viability has made its way all the way up to the supreme court because the administration has yet to provide a substantial case disproving a problem called “reliance interest”. The problem of reliance interest is that if a policy that a substantial about of people rely on as part of their livelihood is to be rescinded, there must be adequate justification to prove that the cancellation is justified.
5. The program essentially allows these childhood arrivals to live as hardworking, responsible adults.
Provided a social security number, a drivers license, and a work permit, these recipients as of June 15, 2012 could finally do everyday tasks that many take for granted like opening a bank account, applying for a loan, building credit, getting a job, and even driving to the grocery store without fear of immigration enforcement. No more working under someone else’s name, getting paid under the table, driving with tense hands on ten and two in fear of law enforcement. It essentially allowed these individuals to come out of the shadows and breathe. Yes, these individuals have always paid taxes and even had the ability to qualify for general government mandated programs like free school lunch but crucially this program has allowed these recipients the means to live their lives.
But…who are they?
They are lawyers, medical practitioners, business people, real estate agents, students, entrepreneurs and even celebrities. Ivorian “Black Panther” actor Bambadjan Bamba recently “came out” as a DACA recipient after the move to cancel the program was announced. Recipients are similarly focused on all the same things everyone else is, taking care of their families and positively contributing to the only home they have ever known in most cases. “I remember when the administration decided to cancel DACA — that was the last straw for me because not only am I married, but I have a daughter now. I didn’t feel like I could still sit back and keep hitting the snooze button,” Bamba said in an interview with Variety magazine.
As it stands today, no one can opt into the program. There has been another proposal passed on June 10, 2019 called the Dream and Promise Act which suggests a path towards temporary permanent resident status. Though this does not solve the problem and doesn’t address another pressing side of the Black Immigration issue, TPS (temporary protected status), if the Democrats win this upcoming election, the possibilities may start to let more light shine on the precarious situation DREAMers have been in for years. For now, we just have to wait with clasped hands to see what will happen while DREAMers all around us silently fight for their right to continue to live life in their own home.