By Attorney Jose Aponte, Powers Law Group
Ever since the story hit the newswires that the Trump Administration was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, much has already been said and written by pundits on both sides of this debate. For those few who still don’t know, the DACA program allowed some individuals who entered the country illegally, as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. These individuals were brought into the United States as young children by their parents or by others. Deportation would mean, for many if not most, going to a country you do not know, where they communicate in a language you cannot speak.
The DACA program was started by the Obama administration in 2012. However, the program was commenced through an executive order and not through congressional action. To many, this was an unconstitutional overreach by President Obama. The attorney generals of several States, led by Texas, brought suit against the DACA and its companion Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). A temporary injunction was issued in February 2015, blocking DAPA from going into effect while the lawsuit proceeded. In his statement announcing the Trump administrations rescission of the program, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that they agreed that DACA, as it was implemented, was unconstitutional. Attorney General Sessions then announced that while it would end the program, it would do so gradually within a six month period. This was intended to give Congress the opportunity to decide whether or not it chose to enact any legislation. As of September 5 th , no new initial DACA-related applications filed would be acted on. DACA renewal requests for beneficiaries whose benefits are set to expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 would be adjudicated, as long as applicants submitted their applications by October 5, 2017.
According to a recent poll, 54 percent of Americans say they are in favor of Congress passing legislation that would allow DACA recipients to remain in the United States. The greater debate is whether these individuals should eventually be allowed to become eligible for legal permanent residence or citizenship. This apparent support for DACA recipients seems to be getting the attention of Congress.
Recently, Congressional leaders have expressed support in passing some form of legislation. The question is whether a DACA fix would be proposed as standalone legislation or should it be part of a larger immigration reform bill. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker, Paul Ryan, has said that he believes that fixing the DACA program should be part of larger immigration changes. Congressional Democrats seem to be willing to have DACA legislation stand on its own.
President Trump has expressed support for the “Dreamers” although has been short on specifics. With his administration’s September 5 action ending DACA, most concluded that he had bowed to the wishes of his far right base. However, on September 13 it was announced that, the President had invited Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to the White House for dinner. One of the topics apparently in the agenda – DACA. Later that night, Democrats issued a statement announcing that they had reached an agreement with the President that would save DACA. However, the Administration later responded by saying that while the two sides were close to a deal, none had yet been reached. Whether or not a deal has yet been reached it is encouraging that lawmakers in Washington D.C. seem to be giving the subject matter its due consideration. The question remaining is what, if anything, must each side be willing to give in order to reach a compromise.
While “dreamers” still have reason to be nervous, recent actions do suggest that while DACA, as we have come to know it, is on its way out, Congress may have a more permanent solution just below the horizon. Their American Dream may still be within reach.